Eye infections: Now thats spooky – OTC contacts can cause woes
Dressing up as a vampire, zombie or werewolf on Halloween could turn really scary if you buy or wear decorative contact lenses without a prescription from an eye doctor. As you prepare that perfect Halloween costume this year, the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association warns you not to buy or wear decorative contact lenses unless you have a prescription from an eye doctor.
Decorative contact lenses are designed to change the appearance of the eyes, and are especially popular around Halloween. They might be marketed and distributed directly to consumers as fashion accessories through a variety of sources including flea markets, the Internet, beauty salons and convenience stores. They can be lots of fun and the perfect complement to that costume - but like any contact lens, they must be checked for fit by a contact lens specialist.
According to the AOA's 2011 American Eye-Q survey, 11 percent of respondents indicate wearing decorative or colored contact lenses that don't provide vision correction. Of those who wear decorative lenses, 36 percent report illegally purchasing decorative contact lenses without a prescription, a concern to doctors of optometry.
Buying contact lenses without a prescription involves serious health care risks because sellers may not be contact lens specialists. 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. Other risks associated with use of a contact lens without medical guidance include conjunctivitis, corneal swelling, allergic reactions and corneal abrasion due to poor lens fit.
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.
Federal law requires the Food and Drug Administration to regulate decorative lenses as a medical device, similar to corrective lenses, making it illegal to dispense the lenses without a prescription. 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.
To monitor eye health and maintain good vision, schedule regular comprehensive eye exams with an eye doctor. To find an optometrist near you, please visit the OOPA website at www.oregonoptometry.org .