Dangers of Decorative Contact Lenses

April 11, 2013

Before buying decorative lenses, here’s what you should know:

  • They are not cosmetics or over-the-counter merchandise. They are medical devices regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Places that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them without a prescription are breaking the law.
  • They are not “one size fits all.” An eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) must measure each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how your eye responds to contact lens wear. A poor fit can cause serious eye damage, including
    • scratches on the cornea (the clear dome of tissue over the iris – the part of the eye that gives you your eye color)
    • corneal infection (an ulcer on the cornea)
    • conjunctivitis (pink eye)
    • decreased vision
    • blindness
  • Places that sell decorative lenses without a prescription may give you few or no instructions on how to clean and care for your lenses.

Failure to use the proper solution to keep contact lenses clean and moist can lead to infections, says Bernard Lepri, O.D., M.S., M.Ed., an optometrist at FDA. “Bacterial infections can be extremely rapid, result in corneal ulcers, and cause blindness—sometimes within as little as 24 hours if not diagnosed and treated promptly.”

How to Buy Decorative Contact Lense

  • Get an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist), even if you feel your vision is perfect.
  • Get a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and an expiration date. But don’t expect your eye doctor to prescribe anime, or circle, lenses. These bigger-than-normal lenses that give the wearer a wide-eyed, doll-like look have not been approved by FDA.
  • Whether you go in person or shop online, buy the lenses from a seller that requires you to provide a prescription.
  • Follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses, and visit your eye doctor for follow-up eye exams.
  • See your eye doctor right away if you have signs of possible eye infection:
    • redness
    • eye pain that doesn’t go away after a short time
    • decrease in vision

How to Buy Decorative Contact Lenses Safely

  • Get an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist), even if you feel your vision is perfect.
  • Get a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and an expiration date. But don’t expect your eye doctor to prescribe anime, or circle, lenses. These bigger-than-normal lenses that give the wearer a wide-eyed, doll-like look have not been approved by FDA.
  • Whether you go in person or shop online, buy the lenses from a seller that requires you to provide a prescription.
  • Follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses, and visit your eye doctor for follow-up eye exams.
  • See your eye doctor right away if you have signs of possible eye infection:
    • redness
    • eye pain that doesn’t go away after a short time
    • decrease in vision
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