Dangerous eye fads causing damage, blindness

MIAMI – The U.S. remains the world leader when it comes to cosmetic procedures, with an estimated 4 million surgical and non-surgical procedures combined.

While the majority are considered safe, there's an alarming uptick in eye procedures that can cause permanent damage and even blindness, something Nadinne Bruna learned the hard way.

Bruna and her twin sister shot to social media stardom with provocative phots and work out videos.

"I started to get very obsessive with fitness and cosmetic treatments," Bruna said.

She and her sister were dubbed the Bum-Bum twins for their ample, surgically enhanced figures.

"I started to gain popularity on Instagram and doctors offered me a lot of treatments for free and surgeries," Bruna said.

Then came the offer to change the color of her eyes.

"I say, 'Wow, it's great,' so I accept it," she said.

The twins flew to Colombia for the procedure because it's not approved in the U.S.

"The reason is there are a multitude of problems as a result," said Dr. Ranya Habash, with UHealth-Bascom Palmer Eye Institute/TopLine MD.

Habash said the surgery involves placing a colored silicone implant into the cornea, over the iris.

"So you're putting a foreign body inside the eye in a very tight space," Habash said.

Habash said it's like covering the drain of a sink with a wet paper towel, essentially clogging the drain and creating damaging pressure.

"It compresses the optic nerve in the back of the eye, kind of flattens it out like a pancake," Habash said.

The resulting nerve damage leads to vision loss that is often irreparable.

"That someone would subject themselves to undergoing a procedure like that is mindboggling," Ophthalmologist Dr. Inna Ozerov said.

"I was completely naive," Bruna admitted.

Scleral tattooing is also a growing trend and, just as it sounds, involves injecting ink from a needle into the white of the eye.

"Some of these patients have essentially lost their vision, but some end up losing their eyes completely," Oserov said.

Once doctors at Bascom Palmer removed Bruna's implants, they saw the damage that had been done.

"All the diseases one can have in the eye, I have them all," Bruna said. "I got so much depression I start to cry and I say to my sister, 'I want to kill myself.'"

Bruna has lost 50 percent of her vision and struggles with painful light sensitivity, but she hopes telling her story will serve as a warning to others.

"It's very important to see and you give value to that after something like this happens," Bruna said. "For sure, don't touch your eyes." 

Colored contacts are a considered a "safe" way to change the color of your eyes with some key cautions.

The contacts should only be purchased through a board certified vision specialist and should only be left in the eyes for a few hours.

Colored contacts can reduce oxygen flow to the eye, which means wearing them too long may lead to problems. 

About the Author:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.