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Focusing on Contact Lens Safety

Proper Care Required continued...

"Also, any lenses worn overnight increase your risk of infection," says Saviola.

"This is because contact lenses stress the cornea by reducing the amount of oxygen to the eye. They can also cause microscopic damage to the surface of the cornea, making it more susceptible to infection."

Never ignore symptoms of eye irritation or infection that may be associated with wearing contact lenses. The symptoms include discomfort, excess tearing or other discharge, unusual sensitivity to light, itching, burning, gritty feelings, unusual redness, blurred vision, swelling and pain.

If you experience any of these symptoms

  • Remove your lenses immediately and keep them off.
  • Get in touch with your eye care professional immediately.
  • Keep the lenses. They may help your eye care professional determine the cause of your symptoms.
  • Report serious eye problems associated with your lenses to the MedWatch reporting program at


Decorative Contact Lenses

Every year, the approach of Halloween heightens fears at FDA that consumers will harm their eyes with unapproved decorative contact lenses. These are lenses that some people use to temporarily change their eye color or to make their eyes look weird--perhaps giving them an "eye-of-the-tiger" look.

"Although unauthorized use of decorative contact lenses is a concern year-round, Halloween is the time when people may be inclined to use them, perhaps as costume accessories," says Saviola.

The problem is not that people use decorative, non-corrective lenses. It's that many go about it the wrong way, which is dangerous.

Prescription required
Just like their corrective counterparts, decorative contacts--sometimes called plano, zero-powered or non-corrective lenses--are regulated by FDA.

"What troubles us is when they are bought and used without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care," says Saviola. "This can lead to significant risks of eye injuries, including blindness."

FDA is aware that consumers without valid prescriptions have bought decorative contact lenses from beauty salons, record stores, video stores, flea markets, convenience stores, beach shops and the Internet.

Recent legislation has made it illegal to market decorative contact lenses as over-the-counter products.

Unauthorized contact lenses of all types present risks to the eye that include corneal ulcers, corneal abrasion, vision impairment, and blindness.

If you want decorative contacts

  • Get an eye exam from a licensed eye care professional, even if you feel your vision is perfect.
  • Get a valid prescription that includes the brand and lens dimensions.
  • Buy the lenses from an eye care professional or from a vendor who requires that you provide prescription information for the lenses.
  • Follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses, and visit your eye care professional for follow-up eye exams.

WebMD Public Information from the FDA