The American Optometric Association (AOA) is warning consumers about the risks of wearing decorative contact lenses sold without proper medical evaluation from a doctor of optometry and without a prescription. These non-corrective lenses are easily accessible to consumers and are especially popular around Halloween.
Decorative lenses, also referred to as plano lenses, are marketed and distributed directly to consumers through a variety of sources, including flea markets, the Internet, beauty salons and convenience stores. Consumers often find them at retail outlets where they are sold as fashion accessories.
“Buying contact lenses without a prescription can pose serious risk to your sight or eye health,” said Art Epstein, O.D., former chairman of the AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section. “Decorative lenses, like their vision-correcting counterparts, require precise fitting and careful follow-up care. Consumers purchasing these lenses from untrained individuals may receive poorly fitted or “demo” lenses and little to no instruction in proper lens care and cleaning.”
People who buy and wear contact lenses without medical guidance and a valid prescription put themselves at risk for serious, even blinding eye infections. A proper medical evaluation, ensures that the patient is an appropriate candidate for contact lens wear, that the lenses are properly fitted and that the patient is able to safely care for their lenses.
“While consumer education is important, it is equally imperative to ensure that laws are in place so that only people who are trained in the proper fitting and appropriate use of contacts are able to provide them to patients,” said Dr. Epstein. “This is a serious public health issue, especially for adolescents and young adults,” he added.
“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,” added Dr. Epstein.
Other risks associated with use of decorative contact lenses include conjunctivitis, swelling, allergic reactions and corneal abrasion due to poor lens fit. Other problems may include reduced vision, glare, and other general eye and vision impairments.