Beware Inferior Quality Contact Lenses: Optometrists Warn of Eye Health Hazard from Chemicals

October 16, 2015

The American Optometric Association alerts consumers of possible eye and vision problems resulting from lenses purchased from questionable sources without a prescription.

ST. LOUIS - The American Optometric Association (AOA) is warning the public that decorative contact lenses (those that just change the appearance of your eyes), purchased anywhere, including the internet, without a valid doctor's prescription cannot be guaranteed to meet the U.S. standards for this medical device. They cannot be guaranteed to meet standards for: oxygen; material components void of toxic materials and chemicals; or meet water transmission requirements.

Dr. Jeffrey J. Walline, O. D. Ph. D., and chair of the AOA's Contact Lens & Cornea Section says, "This makes these lenses extremely dangerous to even try for a short period of time, including, for example, a Halloween party."

A recent study published in the September, 2015 issue of Eye & Contact Lens: Science & Clinical Practice is prompting doctors of optometry, other medical professionals, health officials and others  to heighten the public alert level, given both new findings of risk as well as the growing popularity of the practice of wearing non-corrective colored contact lenses. The study found the presence of harmful and unregulated chemicals that may be from the colorants applied to the lenses.

The chemicals may affect the oxygen transmissibility factor which allows the corneas to breathe. Without necessary oxygen, corneas may become diseased and develop permanent scars or may react by growing irregular blood vessels. As corneal cells die they leave behind areas that can become further infected, resulting in painful sores that are difficult to heal.

"All contact lenses are considered medical devices by the federal government," Dr. Walline explains. "Contact lenses require a valid prescription from an eye doctor, professional lens fitting, care instructions and professional follow-up.  Any sale of contact lenses that is made without verifying the prescription with the prescribing eye doctor or without a complete copy of the prescription is illegal, according to federal law."

Only those lenses prescribed by an eye doctor are safe to wear according to the schedule the doctor determines is acceptable for a particular individual's eyes only. The prescription designates a lens based on material, corneal compatibility, the shape and curvature of the eyes, and vision correction if required, as well as the wear schedule.

For more information about contact lens hygiene and safety, as well as the risks associated with decorative contact lenses, please visit

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):
The American Optometric Association, a federation of state, student and armed forces optometric associations, was founded in 1898. Today, the AOA is proud to represent the profession of optometry, America's family eye doctors, who take a leading role in an individual's overall eye and vision care, health and well-being. Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye and have extensive, ongoing training to examine, diagnose, treat and manage disorders, diseases and injuries that affect the eye and visual system, providing two-thirds of primary eye care in the U.S. For information on a variety of eye health and vision topics, and to find a doctor of optometry near you, visit

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