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Everything you need to know about an eyeball piercing

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Tattoos and piercings have become more popular over the last few decades, normalizing everything from dramatically gauged earlobes to unique facial piercings — some that go beyond traditional eyebrow, nose or lip rings. 

As trends continue to grow, people opt for more eccentric types and unexpected locations for their piercings. One such location? The eyeball. If this sounds like a risky endeavor, it’s because it is.

Here’s everything you need to know about eyeball piercings, from how they are implanted, to the complications they can bring to the wearer.

Why pierce your eyeball?

Eyeball piercings first became popular in Europe and eventually made their way into the United States in the 2010s. An unsightly fashion statement to some, eyeball jewelry is considered desirable by many others.

Dr. Emil Chynn, an eye surgeon based in New York City, was the first to offer eyeball piercing services in America at his practice, Park Avenue LASEK. The office offers “amazing eye jewelry” implantation for the cost of $3,000. They also offer services including laser eye surgery, dry eye treatment and even corneal tattoos.

Eyeball jewelry is a way to keep curious fashion followers up on the latest sparkling fads, and the cosmetic procedure helps keep Dr. Chynn’s office on the map. In fact, Park Avenue LASEK attests that it is the only place that offers the unique service.

What does an eyeball piercing look like?

An eyeball piercing is a small implanted piece of jewelry that a person wears in the outer corner of the white of their eye (sclera). It’s surgically inserted in the conjunctiva, which is the thin membrane that covers the sclera. 

When it’s in place, an eyeball piercing looks like a small, gem-like decoration that puts a literal sparkle in someone’s eye. Unlike other types of piercings, an eyeball piercing does not have a ring or a “backing,” and it cannot be removed without undergoing surgery.  

What are the risks of an eyeball piercing?

Eyeball piercings are extremely hazardous and are not recommended for several reasons.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology published a warning against eyeball piercings and jewelry in 2013, stating the following risks to eye health:

What about eyelid piercings?

Eyelid piercings are another type of eye piercing. This is when the eyelid — the skin that covers the surface of the eye and protects it from dirt and debris — is pierced with a special type of jewelry called a captive bead ring. Though they are not placed on the eyeball, eyelid piercings are not recommended because they are also dangerous. 

In any situation, the closer a foreign object is to entering your eye, the higher the risk there is of infection and other complications.

Are there less risky eye piercings?

Other types of eye piercings, such as eyebrow piercings, bridge piercings (across the bridge of the nose), third-eye piercings and anti-eyebrow piercings (on the skin beneath the corner of the eye) are often found to be safer alternatives than one in the eye itself.

But given the close proximity to the eyes, there are still risks to these piercings as well. 

SEE RELATED: Canthoplasty (cat-eye) surgery for a larger, almond-shaped eye 

How is an eyeball pierced?

Eyeball piercings are surgically implanted on the white part of the eye (sclera). They’re not performed with an everyday piercing needle, so it’s unlikely that a regular tattoo shop will agree to pierce someone’s eyeball. (Plus, tattoo artists are trained to work with the uppermost layers of a person’s skin, not the eyes.)

According to Park Avenue LASEK, there are several important steps that come before implanting an eyeball piercing. This includes the following:

  1. Preoperative testing to ensure the eye is healthy enough to accept the jewelry. 

  2. A slit lamp exam.

  3. A routine vision checkup

  4. A check to make sure the intraocular pressure is normal.

When these steps are completed, the surgeon prepares the patient for the actual procedure, which includes the following components:

  • The patient is given anesthetic eye drops (as well as Valium and/or nitrous oxide to calm their nerves if needed). 

  • Using small scissors, the surgeon makes a tiny slit on the surface that covers the white portion of the eye (also known as the conjunctiva).

  • A piece of jewelry is then placed into the pocket of the slit. In past cases, the incision has been small enough that patients have not needed stitches after the jewelry is inserted.

The patient is advised of aftercare and follow-up exams before and after the surgery. 

What is the proper care for an eyeball piercing?

Patients are told to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for a few days following the eyeball piercing surgery to help with any discomfort. Your surgeon may recommend artificial tears to help soothe the eye as well. Traditional piercing cleaners and solutions should never be put into the eye.

A follow-up exam is required one day after the surgery to make sure everything went smoothly. The patient usually has one-week and one-month post-op exams with the doctor as well.

As with any piercing, body modification or surgery, you must closely monitor the progress of its healing. If you notice swelling, irritation or any other problems, contact an eye doctor immediately. Do not touch or attempt to remove the piercing yourself, as this can cause serious damage to your eye.

It’s also important to talk with your eye doctor about your personal vision care. Ask if you need to make any changes to it after receiving your eyeball piercing. Be sure to also ask questions about contact lenses (if you wear them), contact solution or eye drops, and which products are safest for you to use.

When to see an eye doctor

Never hesitate to contact your eye care provider if you have questions about your eye and vision health. Eyeball piercings are dangerous and can cause many serious complications — so it is crucial to see an eye doctor if any problems arise in order to prevent permanent damage.

Lastly, remember that the eyes are a very sensitive and complex part of the body. Keeping them safe and healthy is important for a number of reasons. Consider all the risks of an elective eyeball implant surgery before committing to the piercing — your eyes will thank you.

READ NEXT: Are eye tattoos as bad as they sound?

Eye jewelry. Park Avenue LASEK. Accessed October 2022.

Academy warns consumers of the dangers of "eyeball jewelry." American Academy of Ophthalmology. November 2013.

Surgically implanted eyeball jewelry Is the new piercing. ABC News. November 2013.

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