Forget coloured lenses; now get blue or green eyes

New Delhi, Aug 14 (IANS) Soraya (name changed) from Iran was not very happy with her natural brown eyes. But the 20 something now flashes startling green eyes.

All this is thanks to an Indian doctor who is among only four doctors in the world to conduct a procedure that permanently changes the colour of the eyes. So, it is goodbye coloured lenses.

Like Soraya, there are more than 50 people from several parts of the world who have flown to India to get their eye colour changed from Trichi (Tamil Nadu)-based ophthalmologist Shibu Varkey. Varkey is the only surgeon in India who performs the iris implant that permanently changes the colour of the eye. The other three are based in Mexico, Lebanon and Turkey.

Medically called the Brightocular Iris Implant, it takes over an hour to perform.

Under the procedure, an artificial silicon lens with the colour of the patient's choice is placed on top of the original iris. It costs about Rs.450,000.

"Since I started in February last year, I have carried out 60 such operations. Of them, only 10 are from India, the rest are from different parts of the world," Varkey told IANS.

Varkey is associated with the Vasan Eyecare Hospital and also travels to other parts of India if his patients so require.

"I started the iris implant for medical reasons. I came to know about brightocular implant online when I had to treat a boy with a damaged iris," Varkey said.

"The process of implanting the iris for medical purposes was done earlier too, but with the brightocular iris implant, the cosmetic reasons have been on the rise," Varkey added.

Among his 10 Indian patients, eight had the procedure performed for purely cosmetic reasons, he said.

Varkey said he has performed the procedures on patients who had come to him from Iran, Israel, Kuwait, Britain, Mongolia and Japan, among other countries.

"It is a permanent procedure and there is no need for anybody to change it every month. However, if anybody wants to get back to the original eye color or even put a new colour, it is possible through another surgery," Varkey pointed out.

He said most of his patients are models or people in showbiz.

"Mainly models and those in show business have come to me for this procedure. Interestingly, many Asians in the UK and the US also want to change their eye colour so that they can mix with the local population," the eye surgeon said.

Though Varkey claims no side effects, the iris implant is still not permitted for cosmetic purposes in the US.

"It is not banned in the USA, but one requires to get a three-phase approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). At present, the approval process is in the third phase of the clinical trial," Varkey said.

It is not just about changing the colour of the eye; one can also have designs and pictures drawn on the silicon implant.

A patient can choose from colours such as smokey grey, amber, light gray, new turquoise green, new sea green, baby blue, olive green and many more, Varkey said.

The surgery however cannot be undertaken by any and every one. A thorough eye-checkup has to be done for determining the eye pressure and the number of endothelial cell in the eye, and a careful study of the retina also has to be undertaken.

"For about a week the patient has to take care of the eye. They have to wash them regularly and also have to use eye drops for almost a month. I also make sure that patients test their eyes every two years and send me the reports," Varkey added.

One of Varkey's patient's, Kim (name changed) said : "I am very happy after getting blue flower design on my eyes. Now, I look cool."

(Shradha Chettri can be contacted at shradha.c@ians.in)

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