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Spooky Contact Lenses May Threaten Sight

FDA Issues Warning on Decorative Contact Lenses

WebMD Health News

Oct. 29, 2004 -- Cat-like or hypnotic decorative contact lenses may sound like the perfect addition to your Halloween costume, but FDA officials say the effects can be frightening.

The FDA is warning people about the risks of using decorative or special effect lenses that were not obtained from an eye care professional, such as an optician or ophthalmologist. The decorative lenses can cause permanent eye injury and may lead to blindness.

"Consumers should understand that decorative contact lenses, like contact lenses intended for correcting vision, present serious risks to eye health if they are distributed without the appropriate involvement of a qualified eye care professional," says acting FDA Commissioner Lester M. Crawford, MD, in a news release.

Officials say they have received reports of the contact lenses being sold directly to consumers in beauty salons, flea markets, convenience stores, and through the Internet.

"FDA will aggressively use the full range of its statutory authorities to prevent the improper distribution of these potentially dangerous products," says Crawford.

The FDA has also received reports of corneal ulcers associated with the wearing of decorative contact lenses in excess of the recommended period. These ulcers can progress rapidly and lead to infection of the eye if not treated quickly.

Uncontrolled infection can lead to corneal scarring and vision impairment. In the most severe cases, this condition can result in blindness and eye loss.

Other risks associated with the use of decorative contact lenses include:

  • Conjunctivitis (an infection of the eye)
  • Corneal edema (swelling)
  • Allergic reaction
  • Corneal abrasion due to poor lens fit
  • Reduction in sight, contrast sensitivity, and other visual functions that may interfere with driving and other activities

FDA officials urge consumers to avoid using decorative contact lenses unless they have seen an eye care professional and have obtained proper lens fitting and instructions for use.

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