Man Tattooes Eyeballs: How Did Rodrigo Fernando Turn His Eyes Black?

By Philip Ross on April 18, 2013 4:50 PM EDT

man tattooes eyeballs
Rodrigo Fernando of Sao Paolo, Brazil, tattooed his eyeballs black. (Photo: Screenshot/9News)

Rodrigo Fernando's corneas are now jet-black after he had his eyeballs tattooed. The 39-year-old Brazilian, who has had nearly 70 percent of his body inked, including most of his face, had his corneas colored in three weeks ago.

"I wept ink for two days," he told Health Destination. "Only now is the color of my tears lightening up."

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How did Fernando turn his eyes black, and how dangerous is having your eyeballs tattooed?

History Of Corneal Coloring

Fernando's tattoo artist said he studied corneal tattooing for two years before he completed his first eyeball tattoo procedure in Oct. 2012. Health Destination reports that the artist, 31-year-old Rafael Leao Dias, used a special syringe-like needle to inject the ink, which is not the same kind of ink used in regular tattooing, into the thin transparent membrane of the eye called the conjunctiva.

The procedure, which has reportedly made it into prison workshops, is irreversible. The Huffington Post reports that prison inmates across the U.S. are even getting their eyes tattooed blue and red.

Corneal coloring, known in the clinical community as keratopigmentation, is a cosmetic procedure used to improve the appearance of the eyes as well as a medical practice used to improve vision.

According to Dr. Lewis Ziegler in Transactions of the American Ophthalmological Society, corneal tattooing was practiced as early as the first century AD. He reports that prominent Roman physician Galen attempted to improve the appearance of patient's eyes by using a heated metal rod to cauterize the surface of the eyeball, after which he applied powdered nutgalls or pomegranate bark mixed with a copper salt to the area.

The modern procedure of corneal coloring began in 1869. "Earlier trials were limited to the use of black or India ink, which was employed to fill in the pupillary area, to outline the iris circle, and occasionally to stipple the iris radiations," Dr. Ziegler wrote.

What Are The Risks Of Eyeball Tattooing?

The procedure that turned Fernando's eyes black is not recommended. Health Procedure reports that the Brazilian Society of Ophthalmology does not condone the practice, which they purported can cause internal inflammation and vision loss.

"Cosmetic tattooing of the cornea can be extremely dangerous," Dr. Sandra Belmont, a clinical associate professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York, told Open Salon. "Infection, loss of vision, blindness, perforation and hemorrhage are among the potential complications."

Read more from iScience Times:

Man Tattoos Pit Bull 'Duchess': Proud Owner Or Abuser? [VIDEO]

Color, Size And Smoking All Affect Tattoo Removal

Contaminated Tattoo Ink Caused Skin Infections, FDA Says

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