A Belfast, Northern Ireland, woman is dealing with some pretty serious complications from a body modification she had done in 2020.
Anaya Peterson, law school student and mother of five, had her sclera (the white part of the eyeball that surrounds the iris) tattooed blue and purple in 2020. She started with tattooing her right eye blue in July of 2020 and experienced very few complications—essentially just some headaches and eye dryness.
She said she was inspired by Australian model and social media influencer "blue-eyed dragon" Amber Luke who lost her sight for 3 weeks, but regained it, after tattooing both of her sclera blue in 2019.
Peterson decided to tattoo her left eye purple in December of 2020, thinking that all would be well since she hadn't had much trouble with the first eye.
All seemed to be well for the following few months, but in August 2021 Peterson woke up with her left eye severely swollen. She said it made her look like she'd gone "five rounds with Mike Tyson."
"My [top] eyelid started to swell, and my bottom eyelid started to swell. It kept getting worse and worse. I looked like I'd done ten rounds with Mike Tyson."
She attempted to get treatment for the swelling and was sent home with an antibiotic which unfortunately had no effect on the eye.
She decided to go to the emergency room when the antibiotic proved ineffective, and was soon admitted to the hospital for treatment and monitoring.
Peterson underwent surgery to take a biopsy of the affected eye to find out exactly what was causing the inflammation.
Of the surgery, Peterson said:
"I took the option to go [to the hospital] myself. They gave me surgery and took samples of my eye."
"They wouldn't have been able to do it while I was awake, I would have been an absolute nightmare, so they put me to sleep."
"I just wanted to be at home watching TV to be honest. I can't even put it into words. It wasn't nice at all whatsoever."
"It was traumatizing to go through. I just remember thinking, I'm not doing that sh*t again, with the eye tattoo. I'm definitely not doing that sh*t again."
Peterson said it was determined that the inflammation in her eye was from a delayed reaction to the purple dye used in her left eye. While she has since healed from that initial reaction, she's not free from further complications.
Peterson also said that ophthalmologists have told her that she is at an increased risk of glaucoma, a condition which can cause blindness due to damage to the optic nerve—usually from elevated eye pressure.
She said she is already experiencing some vision loss.
"I'm kind of recovered - on the outside, it's recovered. It's just inside. I'm basically on the verge of going blind."
"I don't have 20/20 vision anymore. From a distance I can't see features on faces."
"If I didn't have my eyeballs tattooed, I wouldn't be having this problem. Even today I woke up with more floaters in my eyes. And that is dangerous."
Because of the nature of scleral tattooing, there isn't a way to reverse it or remove the dye.
"I can't get these eye tattoos out. I'm always going to have this problem. "
"So, I basically think that as I get older, it's just best to let me go blind. When I'm 60 or 70, I don't want to have to go to the eye doctor every two or three days."
Peterson was aware of the risks when she had the scleral tattoos done and said her 7-year-old daughter, India, was firmly against her having them done at all.
"I was just going to get one [eye tattoo] at first because I thought that if I go blind, at least I've got the other eye. I should have stuck with that."
"My daughter told me that I didn't want to do that asking, 'what if you go blind?' She wasn't on board with it at all."
Peterson said that if she could go back and make a different choice, she would—but it's probably not the different choice many would expect.
"If I could go back in time, I would have done one black [sclera] and left it. I would have done one black. Absolutely."
"I tell my daughter not to care about the opinions of someone else because they're just ordinary people like you."
"You have positive comments and negative comments, but the negative comments always overshadow the positive ones."
Body modifications aren't without risk, so it's very important to study up on what the possible outcomes are before making any decisions.
Unfortunately, just knowing the risks won't prevent them from happening.