Report cites risks associated with over-the-counter cosmetic contact lenses

SAN FRANCISCO--One patient needed a corneal transplant and another is legally blind after wearing over-the-counter cosmetic contact lenses. These are two of the patients discussed in a report published in the October issue of Eye & Contact Lens, the clinical journal of the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists.

The over-the-counter contact lenses, which are illegal in the United Stated, are not worn to correct refractive errors. Instead, they are tinted to change the appearance of eye color or have various shapes and designs, ranging from animal eyes to sports team logos. Problems associated with illegally sold contact lenses were first reported by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Eye M.D. Association, in July 2002. The Academy received reports from a Myrtle Beach, S.C. ophthalmologist who treated several patients for eye problems after they wore contact lenses purchased from local beachwear stores.

All decorative contact lens are not illegal, however, all contact lenses, whether corrective or decorative, need to be fitted and monitored by an eye care professional. Editor-in-chief of Eye & Contact Lens, H. Dwight Cavanagh, MD, Ph.D., F.A.C.S., said, "This report underscores the need to continue to view contact lenses as medical devices. They need to be fitted and prescribed by licensed health care professionals. As seen in this report, the unregulated sale of contact lenses represents a grave danger to the public."

"Many people mistakenly think decorative contact lenses are just like sunglasses. If you're not wearing the lenses to correct refractive errors, you don't need a prescription. This is a dangerous misconception," said one of the report's authors, Thomas L. Steinemann, MD, of the MetroHealth Medical Center Eye Clinic in Cleveland and associate professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University's Department of Ophthalmology. "People who wear lenses purchased from unlicensed vendors have been given n

Contact: Media Relations
American Academy of Ophthalmology

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