In an editorial published in the journal's current issue, Dr. H. Dwight Cavanagh, vice chairman of ophthalmology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, details the vision-damaging problems that can occur when contact lenses are worn without a doctor's prescription or monitoring.
"Letting an underage member of the family use these lenses without supervision is like giving them the car keys without a license and without an adult in the front seat," Dr. Cavanagh said. "Remember, a lot of permanent damage can be done after only a few hours of wear."
Cosmetic contact lenses that change eye color or appearance with designs are becoming increasingly popular among teens and young adults. These lenses that can often be purchased on the Internet and in mall specialty shops, flea markets and gas stations without a doctor's prescription may harm your eyes, Dr. Cavanagh said.
Buying contacts in this "one size fits all" manner without a prescription is dangerous and can be detrimental to eyesight, he added.
Ill-fitting over-the-counter contact lenses rub a patient's cornea, causing infection and damage that could lead to blindness, Dr. Cavanagh said. The lenses could also cause irreversible scarring, inflammation and even loss of the eye.
When a patient is prescribed contact lenses regardless of whether the lenses are worn to correct vision an ophthalmologist or optometrist examines the eye to make sure lenses don't aggravate existing problems. They measure the eye to ensure the best possible fit and teach the patient how to handle the lenses properly and how to keep them sterile. The doctor will monitor the patient to make sure problems don't develop later.