Those colored contact lenses you bought from your hairdresser might just cost you your eye sight. With San Diego Comic-Con having just passed and Halloween right around the corner, the sale of cosmetic, eye altering contact lenses is at a high. Cosmetic, fashion, costume or colored, the lenses go by many names. While it may seem cool to have zombie eyes, cat’s eyes or simply change your eye color to a different one, most people who consider purchasing these lenses don’t realize that lasting damage caused by poorly fitted lenses cause irreversible and lasting damage to the wearers eyes.
Cosmetic contact lenses, just like their uncolored counterparts, are medical devices that require a prescription by a licensed eye doctor and are regulated by the FDA. You might say to yourself, �I have perfect vision, so I don’t need an eye doctor to check my eyes�. Although you may have excellent vision, and may not need glasses or corrective eye wear, but you do not have the same size eyes as everyone else. Just like everyone has different shoe sizes and pant sizes, people have different size eyes too, and your lenses need to be fitted to match your eye type. A 2010 study published in pediatrics indicated that roughly 13,500 emergency room cases each year are due to the wear of unregulated costume lenses in children and teens. Injuries can range from scratches and tears on your cornea (the soft skin layer over the iris, the part of the eye that gives it color), pink eye, decreased vision or even blindness. One study found that wearing unprescribed colored lenses increased the risk of keratitis (a potentially blinding infection that causes ulcers to form on your eyes), by more than 16 times when compared to people who wear regular fitted corrective lenses.
So why are shops that sell unprescribed cosmetic lenses still allowed to do so? These places are selling the contacts illegally and can face fines as high as $16,000 per violation. You may see these cosmetic lenses being sold all over by street vendors, beauty salons, flea markets, Halloween stores and gas stations. These places do not fit the contacts to your particular eye shape, nor do they provide you with proper instructions for the caring and cleaning of your lenses. The only places you should be buying your lenses from are licensed online retailers and licensed eye doctors. Purchasing them anywhere else without a prescription will only put you and your eyes at risk.
The correct way to go about purchasing colored contacts is to first visit your eye doctor. Get into the habit of seeing your eye doctor on a yearly basis. Tell them that you want to be fitted for contact lenses. They will measure your eyes and assess how they respond to contact lens wear. Once this is done your doctor will give you a valid prescription that is specific to your eyes. You can use that prescription to purchase the cosmetic lenses from your eye doctor or from an authorized online retailer; which generally tend to be a lot less expensive. Make sure the online retailer requires you to have a valid prescription; otherwise you’ll be back in the same boat as you were buying them from the street vendor or gas station. Lastly follow your doctors handling instructions for cleaning, handling and wearing the lenses. Don’t leave the lenses in longer than prescribed and don’t forget to clean them regularly as this can result in eye infections and eye ailments as well. Be sure to schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor to ensure that the lenses are fitting properly. If you start to experience any discomfort, redness, soreness or vision loss contact your eye doctor immediately.