Before you purchase blood-drenched vampire contact lenses or glow-in-the-dark werewolf contact lenses to complete your Halloween costume, your BBB wishes to share a recent (October 24, 2013) FDA consumer update on decorative contact lenses. The FDA warns consumers that there are risks to the use of these contacts.
First of all, contact lenses are regulated medical devices, not cosmetics. They must be sold with a prescription from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. It is illegal in the U.S. for places to advertise the lenses as cosmetic or to sell them without a prescription. The FDA warns consumers never to buy lenses from street vendors, salons or beauty supply stores, boutiques, flea markets, novelty or Halloween stores, convenience stores, beach or souvenir shops, or the Internet (unless the site requires a prescription).
The FDA update tells about the problem one consumer experienced from the decorative lenses. She purchased some colored contacts at a souvenir shop, and she experienced an excruciating pain in her left eye as she was driving home wearing her new contacts. She had to pull over and it took her 20 minutes to remove the contact because it was stuck to her eye like a suction cup. Her eye doctor told her she had a corneal abrasion and described it as if someone had rubbed her cornea with sandpaper. She could not drive for eight weeks and more than five months after the incident still had decreased vision in one of her eyes. She bought the contacts for $30 and ended up with a $2000 doctor bill.
Since these decorative contacts are not fitted to the eye of the wearer, a poor fit can cause scratches on the cornea, corneal ulcers, bacterial infection (keratitis), pink eye, decreased vision or blindness, and cause blood vessels to grow into the cornea. One study found that 60% of patients who developed keratitis from wearing non-prescription decorative contact lenses suffered permanent vision loss. Another study published in 2010 in Pediatrics found that at least 13,500 emergency room cases each year are due to contact lens injuries in children and teens.
New decorative lenses on the market are the circle, or anime, lenses. They cover a larger area of the eye, extending past the iris and onto the whites of the eye thus giving the wearer a wide-eyed or anime look. They are particularly troublesome because they are not FDA approved and may not have been properly cleaned or disinfected. Also, because these lenses cover more of the eye and the designs painted on these lenses make them thicker, wearing them makes it very difficult for oxygen to get to the eye.
In a News Release about decorative contact lenses from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Dr. Glenda Brown, president of the Georgia Optometric Association, said, “A lifetime of good vision is so much more important than a cheap Halloween accessory.”
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