No Colored Contact Lenses without Prescription This Halloween, Says FDA

By , UniversityHerald Reporter

Wearing colorful and spooky lenses during Halloween is quite common. The decorative contact lenses enhance the ghostly look apart from sporting weird costumes and other accessories.

However, the Food and Drug Administration has cautioned the citizens against wearing non-prescription contact lenses as it can possibly lead to serious damage to the eye, including scratched cornea, corneal infection, decreased vision, bacterial infection and blindness.

"Bacterial infections can be extremely rapid, result in corneal ulcers, and cause blindness-sometimes within as little as 24 hours if not diagnosed and treated promptly," FDA ophthalmologist Bernard Lepri told NY Daily News.

"The problem isn't with the decorative contacts themselves. It's the way people use them improperly-without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care."

The campaign known as "Operation Double Vision," advises users not to purchase lenses from any store and online without a prescription.

Fake lenses are inexpensive and can cost as little as $20. Looking at its popularity, costume stores and boutiques store them in a range of wide colors and styles. But it's illegal to sell contact lenses without a prescription or to advertise them as cosmetics. The law requires a prescription to purchase contact lenses.

"Our concern is that consumers who buy and use decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription can run significant risks of eye injuries, including blindness," John Roth, director of FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations, said in an official statement. "It is always better to involve a qualified eye care professional and protect your vision."

James Dinkins, the executive director of the Homeland Security Investigations, warns that these counterfeit lenses can cause irreparable damage to an individual's eyes.

"Even though Halloween approaches, consumers shouldn't let a good deal or great costume blind them to the dangers of counterfeit decorative contact lenses," Dinkins said.  "What's truly scary is the damage these counterfeit lenses can do to your eyes for a lifetime."

FDA refers to Laura Butler of Parkersburg, W.Va., who suffered bad consequences of purchasing counterfeit contact lenses without prescription. In 2010, Butler purchased a pair of blue contact lenses from a shop and soon started experiencing 'excruciating pain.'

The lenses moved around in Butler's eyes and became 'stuck like suction cups.' She immediately removed them and was later diagnosed with corneal abrasion.

An ophthalmologist described her eye condition 'as if someone took sandpaper and sanded my cornea.'  As a result of the lens, Butler was unable to drive for eight weeks, had a droopy eyelid for five months, and has damaged vision.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are collaborating together to confiscate counterfeit contact lenses, illegally imported decorative lenses, and lenses unapproved by the FDA.

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