The sclera – the white part of the eyes – can become discolored due to several factors such as stress, lack of rest or sleep, and illness. This discoloration can be aesthetically unpleasant but can also be an indication of deeper health issues.
Eye whitening surgery helps in providing a permanent solution to sclera discoloration. The current best eye whitening surgery involves removing the conjunctiva or the thin layer that contributes to sclera discoloration. This procedure can have a monthly cost of up to 200USD.
The Sclera and the Iris
The iris and the sclera are the two primary components of the eye. The iris is the colored part while the sclera is the white part. The white part adds contrast to the iris, making it appear brighter and more attractive.
Humans are the only primates with a visible sclera. This helps in making human beings one of the most sociable creatures; A visible sclera allows human beings to convey emotions and communicate better.
Apart from its aesthetic functions, the sclera also contributes to the structure of the eye. It functions as a supporting wall for the eyeball and also protects the pupil from harsh light. It is also an indication of health where a whiter sclera indicates a more rested state and better internal health.
Certain conditions, however, can cause the sclera to become discolored. Some of the frequent discolorations of the sclera appear as yellow or brown. It can also manifest in red discoloration, also known as “bloodshot eyes.”
Sclera discoloration is a possible indication of minor problems like eye irritation or a major problem like hypertension or a liver-related problem. Red and dry eyes are usually caused by irritation due to dry air and dust. Little to no moisture can cause the eyes to look scratchy and exhibit redness. This often occurs in places of high altitude and low humidity.
CVS or computer vision syndrome can also cause redness in the sclera. High and frequent exposure to blue light emitted by computer gadgets can cause eye fatigue, leading to redness in the sclera.
More serious cases of red eyes occur due to viral or bacterial conjunctivitis. The redness – also called pterygium, – can manifest in the sclera and extend up to the iris.
The yellow discoloration of the eyes, however, is an indication of an internal problem. Low red blood cells due to anemia can cause the sclera of the eyes to turn yellow. Malaria, which causes the mutation of the red blood cells, can also cause yellow discoloration of the eyes as a side effect.
However, the most serious cause of yellow discoloration of the sclera is jaundice. Jaundice occurs due to the high concentration of bile pigment called bilirubin in the body; This will turn the skin and the sclera yellow.
Brown or yellow stains can also manifest in parts of the sclera due to overexposure to sunlight. These pigmented spots were known to be permanent until the invention of new eye whitening procedures and surgery.
Eye Whitening Surgery
Some of the first eye whitening surgeries involved bleaching the sclera with a topical compound. This procedure was met with suspicion because of the potential to cause irreversible cell degradation.
Other procedures are proposed to stop blood flow in the eyes to increase its brightness. However, it also carries the risk of permanent blindness or the development of an eye ulcer.
Some eye drops also offer to reduce sclera discoloration but only manage to provide temporary effects. These eye drops often cause rebound redness where the eyes become clearer in the short-term but will show redness again once the effects subside.
Currently, the safest eye whitening surgery involves removing the conjunctiva or the tissue that covers the sclera. The conjunctiva is responsible for the excessive redness and the appearance of yellow and brown pigmentation on the sclera.
This procedure can be performed on anyone suffering from sclera discoloration. However, it requires professional examination to assess the viability of the procedure on the individual.
Removing the conjunctiva does not require grafts or stitches and is also pain-free. It is similar to procedures like Pinguecula Removal, Conjunctivochalasis, Conjunctivoplastry, and Pterygium Removal. Expert ophthalmologists can even remove sunlight-induced sclera scars.
This procedure does not require lasers. The doctor will simply remove the conjunctiva to prevent the reappearance of blood vessels that can cause sclera discoloration. Afterward, the doctor will put MMC drops or Mitomycin C to facilitate healing and increase whiteness; Results from this procedure usually take up to 8 weeks.
The cost for such a procedure can reach up to 200 USD per month. Since this procedure is considered cosmetic, most insurance companies do not cover the costs.
Alternative solutions to eye surgery involve lifestyle and dietary changes. Eye redness can be caused by sleep deprivation. Getting 6-8 hours of sleep and relaxing the eyes to reduce swelling and discomfort using green tea bags, cucumber slices, and rose water can help alleviate the redness.
Cold compress is also a good long-term alternative to alleviate redness of the sclera. Soaking a towel in cold water for 15 minutes and placing it on top of the eyes can help in relaxing the muscles and blood vessels. Some people also place a cold spoon on top of the eyes to relax stressed capillaries.
Preservative-free eye drops can also provide temporary relief by adding moisture and humectant to the eyes. Humectants help the eyeball in retaining moisture and eventually reduce redness.
Dietary changes such as an increase in intake of omega fatty acids like omega-6 and omega-3 can help improve overall health and help prevent sclera discoloration from the inside. Taking anti-oxidants and foods with anti-inflammatory properties such as cucumber, carrots, and turmeric also aids in preventing bloodshot eyes.
Improving hydration by consuming more water and avoiding caffeine as well as sugary and fatty foods can help clear toxins from the body. This can help prevent liver inflammation that can potentially cause diseases that can cause sclera discoloration like jaundice.