American Optometric Association Launches Campaign to Combat Illegal Contact Lens Vendors

Contact: Yakesha Cooper, ycooper@aoa.org, 703.837.1349

St. Louis—October 9, 2018—In the spirit of Halloween, the American Optometric Association (AOA) kicks off their annual "31 in 31" letter-writing campaign to warn about a real fright—damage from wearing un-prescribed decorative contact lenses. The campaign combats against the pervasiveness of illegal contact lenses sales by calling out 31 online vendors, brick-and-mortar shops and other sellers who have been reported to the AOA as having inappropriate contact lens sales practices, which put the public's eye and vision health at risk.

"Decorative contact lenses may seem like a fun costume accessory, but if you're not careful, they can cause serious eye and vision problems," says AOA President, Samuel D. Pierce, O.D. "Many people mistakenly believe they don't need a prescription for decorative contact lenses. It's extremely important that anyone desiring to wear contact lenses for any reason get an eye exam from a doctor of optometry and only wear contact lenses, with or without vision correction, that have been properly fitted."

All contact lenses, even purely cosmetic ones, are classified as medical devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and require a valid prescription. Doctors of optometry are growing increasingly concerned about the accessibility of decorative lenses and the risks for consumers who purchase them from unregulated sources, such as costume shops, gas stations and online retailers. In fact, 26 percent of Americans who have worn non-corrective, decorative contact lenses purchased them without a prescription from a source other than an eye doctor, according to the AOA's American Eye-Q® survey. Illegally-purchased lenses can cause bacterial infections, allergic reactions and even permanent loss of vision.

The AOA hopes the letter will put a scare into retailers who illegally distribute corrective, novelty or bogus contact lenses in violation of the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) and Contact Lens Rule. The campaign also serves as a way to inform the general public about the dangers of using contact lenses without the supervision of a trained doctor of optometry. Although not a regulatory enforcement entity, the AOA takes seriously its central mission of serving as a resource to the public for reliable and current information related to eye and vision care, as well as safeguarding patients' eye health.

"Unfortunately, far too many companies are breaking the rules in the FCLCA to make sales and profits," says Dr. Pierce. "Through our '31 in 31' campaign, we strongly urge these companies to reverse their policies of illegally distributing contact lenses without valid prescriptions in violation of federal law. These sales potentially put patients at risk for sight-threatening complications. It's a matter of public safety."

The AOA recommends the following tips for a safe Halloween:

  • See a doctor of optometry for decorative lenses, even if you have 20/20 vision! O.D.s can properly fit your lenses and give you a comprehensive exam to assess total eye health.

  • Don't share your lenses with friends or family members so they can perfect their costume. This will spread bacteria and germs.

  • No matter how tired you are after the Halloween festivities, do not sleep in your contacts and give your eyes a break.

For more information about contact lenses and consumer safety, visit aoa.org/contact-lenses.