BOSTON, Mass. – Decorative contact lenses can enhance elaborate costumes, offering blood-drenched vampire eyes or glow-in-the-dark lizard eye. But decorative lenses can lead to permanent eye damage and vision loss.
The Massachusetts Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are warning parents and teens about the dangers of non-prescription decorative contact lenses.
Wearing decorative lenses has been known to increase the risk for developing keratitis – a potentially blinding infection that causes an ulcer on the eye – by more than 16 times.
"I know how fun it can be to dress up in costume, but it's never worth risking a lifetime of vision loss," said Dr. Michael H. Goldstein, president of the Massachusetts Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons.
"People usually buy these products having no idea of the potential dangers, and that's often how they end up in an ophthalmologist's office with a corneal abrasion or serious infection. The only safe way to wear decorative contact lenses is under the guidance of an eye care professional," he said.
In 2005, a federal law classified all contact lenses as medical devices and restricted their distribution to licensed eye care professionals. Illegal sale of contact lenses can result in civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.
To safely wear decorative lenses, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following:
- Get an eye exam from an eye care professional;
- Obtain a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and expiration date;
- Purchase the lenses from a licensed eye care professional or an eye product retailer who asks for a prescription;
- Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses;
- Never share contact lenses with anyone;
- Get a follow-up exam.
For more information, visit www.geteyesmart.org.