Over-the-counter lenses can cause serious eye disorders

Halloween is right around the corner, and you may be thinking about finishing off your costume with zebra-striped or glow-in-the-dark decorative contact lenses. But do you know the risks associated with these lenses? Buying decorative lenses without a prescription is dangerous, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (Academy) warns consumers that purchasing or wearing these contact lenses improperly can cause serious eye disorders and infections.

"Contact lens safety is a concern year-round, but many people believe that decorative lenses are an exception to needing a prescription," says Thomas Steinemann, MD, associate professor of ophthalmology, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a clinical correspondent for the Academy. "This is far from the truth. In fact, permanent eye damage can occur from over-the-counter lenses. Any type of contact lens is a medical device that requires a prescription and proper fitting by an eye care professional."

Halloween is the time when people use decorative contact lenses most, and through its EyeSmart campaign, the Academy reminds consumers that Web sites advertising decorative contacts as if they were cosmetics, claiming 'One size fits all,' and 'No need to see an eye specialist' is false advertising. "I have seen the damage these over-the-counter lenses can cause," said Dr. Steinemann. "Inflammation and pain are common; serious problems such as corneal abrasions and blinding infections can also occur."

Although over-the-counter sales of nonprescription "plano" cosmetic lenses have been illegal in the United States since 2005, decorative contacts are still widely available without prescription in retail stores and on the Internet. In 2005, an Academy-backed federal law classified all contact lenses as medical devices and restricted their distribution to licensed eye care professionals.

Watch a video on how to properly care for your contact lenses.

To protect your eyes, contact lenses must be fitted by an eye care professional. For more information about contact lenses, go to www.geteyesmart.org.

SOURCE: American Academy of Ophthalmology


  1. boris boris United States says:

    I wsa told that I NEED an OTC. What is OTC please in Opthalmology Term please? Thanks

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