"Decorative contact lenses may seem like a fun accessory, but if you're not careful, they can cause serious eye and vision problems."
In recent years, more Americans have been using decorative contact lenses to alter the appearance or color of the eyes. These contact lenses are often used as a costume accessory to change a person's eye color or create an effect and have become increasingly popular around Halloween. These non-corrective, decorative lenses pose the same potential safety and health issues as corrective contact lenses and should only be acquired with a prescription from an eye doctor.
All contact lenses are classified as medical devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and require a valid prescription.
Eye doctors are growing increasingly concerned about how accessible decorative contact lenses are and the risks for consumers who purchase them illegally on the Internet, at flea markets, off-the-shelf in retail or drug stores, and even on the street. The American Optometric Association (AOA) has collaborated with the FDA and the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC) to help educate consumers about the importance of acquired lenses only with a valid prescription from an eye doctor.
"Decorative contact lenses may seem like a fun accessory, but if you're not careful, they can cause serious eye and vision problems," advises Thomas Quinn, O.D., AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section (CLCS) chair. "Unfortunately, many consumers mistakenly believe they don't need a prescription for decorative contact lenses that do not provide vision correction. It's extremely important that consumers get an eye exam and only wear contact lenses, with or without vision correction, that are properly fitted and prescribed by an eye doctor."
According to the AOA's 2014 American Eye-Q consumer survey, 11 percent of consumers have worn decorative, non-corrective contact lenses and of those, 53 percent purchased them illegally without a prescription. Wearing illegally purchased decorative contact lenses can result in bacterial infections, allergic reactions, or even significant damage to the eye's ability to function, which could lead to irreversible sight loss. "Contact lenses are among the safest forms of vision correction when used properly," says Dr. Quinn. "A medical eye and vision examination from your optometrist can determine if you are a good candidate for wearing contact lenses, regardless of whether they provide vision correction or not. During the exam, your eye doctor will make sure your lenses fit properly and teach you how to safely care for your lenses."
AOA eye doctors point to six common mistakes made by patients when it comes to handling contact lenses, including:
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