By Mark Siegel, MD, FAAO
Websites often advertise decorative contacts as if they were cosmetics, fashion accessories or toys. With whimsical packaging and names, their targets are often teens and young adults.
The truth: claims such as “one size fits all” and “no need to see an eye specialist” are false advertising. Many sales of contact lenses are illegal.
Here’s what you need to know:
• It’s illegal to sell decorative lenses without a prescription in the United States Since 2005, the law has classified all contact lenses as medical devices and restricted their distribution to licensed eye care professionals. Laws on decorative lenses vary in other countries.
• See an eye care professional before using any decorative lenses: an ophthalmologist or optometrist must measure each eye in order to properly fit the contact lenses to the individual patient.
• Lenses that are not properly fitted may scratch the eye or cause blood vessels to grow into the cornea (the clear covering of the front of the eye that is essential to seeing clearly).
• Using any contact lenses obtained without an eye exam and prescription can lead to serious eye disorders and eye infections, which can ultimately cause permanent vision loss.
• Contacts that are not cleaned and disinfected properly can cause painful and potentially serious infections.
If you want your Halloween look to include cat, zombie or glow-in-the-dark eyes, or if you’d like to use lenses to change your eye color or appearance, get your decorative contact lenses and circle lenses prescribed by an eye care professional. It’s crucial that your lenses fit properly, and your individual prescription can only be determined by an eye exam.
Skipping this step and buying lenses online or over the counter can set you up for serious eye problems, infections or even permanent vision loss.