Beware decorative non-prescription contacts

eye with blue contact[See photo credit at end of article]
While some strabismus sufferers feel contact lenses make their strabismus worse, many others with strabismus have no problem wearing them for vision correction.

Contact lenses can also be purchased to change the color or appearance of your eyes. You should never purchase these without a prescription from an eye care professional, however. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that, without being properly fitted by an eye care professional, non-prescription contact lenses can cause irreversible eye damage, even leading to blindness.

Contact wearers are especially warned during the Halloween season. Contact lenses that decorate your eyes with a Halloween theme are readily available without a prescription.

Although decorative contacts (also called plano, zero-powered or non-corrective lenses) are now classified as medical devices under the FDA’s regulatory control, the FDA says it is aware that they have been purchased without a prescription from beauty salons, record stores, video stores, flea markets, convenience stores, beach shops and the internet.

According to the FDA, risks associated with decorative lenses purchased from non-professional dealers that do not require a prescription include infection, ulcers and scratches on the cornea of the eye, vision impairment, and blindness.

Here are the FDA’s recommendations:

  • Wear contact lenses only if they are fitted and prescribed by an eye-care professional such as an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.
  • Do not purchase contact lenses from gas stations, video stores, record shops, or any other vendor not authorized by law to dispense contact lenses.
  • Never swim while wearing contact lenses. There is a risk of eye infection when contact lenses come into contact with bacteria in swimming pool water.
  • Make sure contact lenses are properly cleaned and disinfected as instructed by your eye-care professional.
  • Make sure you wash your hands before handling and cleaning your contact lenses.
  • Never swap or share contact lenses with anyone.
  • Never sleep while wearing contact lenses unless they are extended-wear lenses specifically designed for that purpose.

Don’t take chances with your eyes. Do it right!

For more information, see:

FDA: Decorative (Plano) Contact Lenses Information from the FDA about non-prescription contact lenses, updated May 12, 2006.

FDA: Warning on Decorative Contact Lenses Published in FDA Consumer Magazine, January-February 2003.

ABC News: Scary Eyes Just Got Scarier News item about contacts with a Halloween theme.

Photo Credit: Katherine Steele

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