Decorative contact lenses can seriously damage the eyes

Consumers are being warned that decorative contact lenses bought without a prescription can permanently damage people's eyesight.

The warning comes from the American Optometric Association (AOA) and says that buying contact lenses without a prescription involves serious health care risks because sellers may not be contact lens specialists.

Decorative lenses are marketed and distributed directly to consumers through a variety of sources including flea markets, the Internet, beauty salons and convenience stores and are often sold at retail outlets as fashion accessories.

Decorative lenses are sold by people who have received no training or instruction and the responsibility to properly clean and disinfect as well as insert and remove is down to the consumer.

They are especially popular around Halloween.

Dr. Louise Sclafani, chair of the AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section, says people who buy and wear contact lenses without medical guidance and a valid prescription put themselves at risk for ocular inflammation, bacterial infection or mechanical damage to the eye, with the potential of irreversible loss of sight.

Risks associated with the use of decorative contact lenses include conjunctivitis, swelling, allergic reaction and corneal abrasion due to poor lens fit; other problems may include reduction in visual acuity (sight), contrast sensitivity and other general eye and vision impairments.

Dr. Sclafani says a proper medical evaluation can determine whether or not patients are viable candidates to wear contact lenses and if they are capable of wearing contact lenses without problems.

Dr. Sclafani says consumers and retailers should understand that decorative lenses, like the contact lenses intended for correcting vision, present serious risks to eye health if they are distributed without the appropriate involvement of a qualified eye care professional.

Federal law requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate decorative lenses as a medical device, similar to corrective lenses, making it illegal to dispense the lenses without a prescription.

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