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Decorative Contact Lenses can be Dangerous, FDA Warns

Oct 8, 2014

Decorative contact lenses can lead to serious injury and even blindness when used inappropriately, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While the use of colorful or vividly designed contact lenses may be appealing as Halloween draws near, consumers should keep in mind that these items are classified as medical devices and require a prescription.

It is illegal to sell contact lenses without a prescription and harmful to buy them without one. Contact lenses are not "one size fits all" and any claiming that consumers "do not need to see an eye specialist" are deceptive. A lens that does not fit properly can lead to infections, a scratched cornea and permanent vision loss as a result.

In order to address these risks, the FDA launched a joint campaign with the American Optometric Association and the Entertainment Industries Council in June. The campaign contained two videos that used clips from the popular television series “American Horror Story”, in which decorative contact lenses are often used.

"Our intent is that when young people see the lengths professional makeup artists go to, to make sure actors get and use the lenses safely, they'll take the message to heart," said Dr. Helene Clayton-Jeter, an optometrist and FDA health programs coordinator, according to LiveScience.

The videos, which contain behind-the-scenes interviews with professional make-up artists, convey the necessary procedures that must be done when obtaining contact lenses for actors. When a design is created, the lenses must be sterilized and the fit must be appropriate because everyone has different eyes. Actors must undergo comprehensive eye exams, obtain a prescription and purchase the lenses from a trusted source.

The FDA advises consumers to get an eye exam with a prescription for a brand name, lens measurements and an expiration date when purchasing contact lenses. To properly maintain the lenses, instructions for cleaning and appropriate wear should be closely adhered to. Consumers should not buy lenses from a seller who does not require a prescription.

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