With Halloween approaching, the
American Optometric Association (AOA) is warning consumers about the risks
of wearing decorative contact lenses without a prescription from an eye
doctor. These non-corrective lenses, which are designed only to change the
appearance of the eyes, are easily accessible to consumers and are
especially popular around Halloween.
Federal law requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate
decorative lenses as a medical device, similar to corrective lenses;
however, decorative lenses continue to be illegally marketed and
distributed directly to consumers through a variety of sources including
flea markets, the Internet, beauty salons and convenience stores.
According to the AOA, only a proper medical evaluation from an eye
doctor can determine whether or not patients are viable candidates to wear
contact lenses, if they are capable of wearing lenses without problems, and
that the lenses fit properly.
“Purchasing contact lenses without a prescription can result in serious
eye health and vision damage since consumers are not properly educated on
cleaning and disinfecting, nor in proper removal and application of the
contact lens,” said Paul Klein, O.D., chair of the AOA’s Contact Lens and
Cornea Section. “Without a prescription and wearing instructions from an
eye doctor, consumers who wear these contact lenses put themselves at risk
of serious bacterial infection, or even significant damage to the eye’s
ability to function, with the potential for irreversible sight loss.”
This warning comes at a time of heightened consumer interest in
changing one’s eye color. New results from the AOA’s American Eye-Q(R)
survey indicate that more than half of all Americans would consider
changing the color of their eyes with colored lenses.
Other risks associated with the use of decorative contact lenses
include conjunctivitis, swelling, allergic reaction and corneal abrasion
due to poor lens fit. Additional medical problems may result in a reduction
of visual acuity (sight), contrast sensitivity and other general eye and
“Even though they carry no prescription, and may be worn for short
periods of time, decorative contact lenses carry the same risks as
corrective contact lenses,” said Dr. Klein. “Because of this, it’s
important for consumers utilizing these lenses to familiarize themselves
with the information available from an eye doctor, so as to reduce the risk
Recommendations for Decorative Contact Lens Wearers from the American
1. See an optometrist for a proper fitting and prescription
2. Always wash your hands before handling contact lenses.
3. Carefully and regularly clean contact lenses, as directed by your
optometrist. Rub the contact lenses with fingers and rinse thoroughly
before soaking lenses overnight in sufficient multi-purpose solution
to completely cover the lens.
4. Store lenses in the proper lens storage case and replace the case at a minimum of every three months. Clean the case after each use, and keep it open and dry between cleanings.
5. Use only products recommended by your optometrist to clean and
disinfect your lenses. Saline solution and rewetting drops are not
designed to disinfect lenses.
6. Only fresh solution should be used to clean and store contact lenses.
Never re-use old solution. Contact lens solution must be changed
according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, even if the lenses
are not used daily.
7. Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule
prescribed by your optometrist.
8. Remove contact lenses before swimming or entering a hot tub.
9. See your optometrist for your regularly scheduled contact lens and eye examination.
For more information about the risks of decorative contact lenses, or
to find additional resources pertaining to contact lens hygiene and
compliance, please visit aoa.
About the American Optometric Association (AOA):
The American Optometric Association represents approximately 36,000
doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and
technicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across
the country, and in 3,500 of those communities are the only eye doctors.
Doctors of optometry provide two-thirds of all primary eye care in the
American Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly
qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who
examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In
addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a major role
in a patient’s overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases
such as diabetes and hypertension.
Prior to optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years
of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor’s degree. Required
undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students is extensive and covers
a wide variety of advanced health, science and mathematics. Optometry
school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study
concentrating on both the eye and systemic health. In addition to their
formal training, doctors of optometry must undergo annual continuing
education to stay current on the latest standards of care. For more
information, visit aoa.
American Optometric Association