Decorative lenses (also called “fashion,” “costume” and “colored” contact lenses) can only be legally purchased from a seller that requires a prescription. Even then, the lenses should be fitted by an ophthalmologist or optometrist to prevent injury.
Without putting a damper on fall festivities, you might want to gently remind patients that they are risking corneal scratches and infections, conjunctivitis, and even blindness when they accessorize non-prescription decorative contact lenses. Many people don’t realize that contact lenses, even ones that don’t correct vision, are medical devices regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Stores and internet sites sell decorative lenses without a prescription.
Street vendor, hair salons, convenience stores and internet sites that sell decorative lenses without a prescription often do not provide adequate instruction on how to clean and care for the lenses. That’s a problem, because bacterial infections can develop within as little as 24 hours if not diagnosed and treated promptly, according to Bernard P. Lepri, an FDA optometrist in the agency’s Contact Lens and Retinal Devices branch.
The problem isn’t with the contacts themselves, says Dr. Lepri, but with the way people use them – without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified professional, and without appropriate follow-up care.