Decorative Contact Lenses: What Teens and Parents Need to Know

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You may want to look like your
favorite movie star or singer or have the perfect look for Halloween, but
changing the look of your eyes with decorative contact lenses could cause a lot
of damage to your eyesight.

Read more from the American Academy of Pediatrics
about how to protect your eyes from harm.

What are decorative contact lenses?

Decorative contact lenses are considered medical
devices. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees their safety and
effectiveness, just like regular contact lenses. Though they only change the
look of your eyes and do not correct your vision, an exam, a prescription, and
proper lens care are important.

Decorative contact lenses are sometimes

  • Fashion contact lenses

  • Halloween contact lenses

  • Color contact lenses

  • Cosmetic contact lenses

  • Theatrical contact lenses

How can decorative contact lenses harm my eyes?

Wearing decorative contact lenses can be risky,
just like the contact lenses that correct your vision.

The risks of not using contact lenses correctly

  • A cut or scratch on the top layer of
    your eyeball (corneal abrasion)

  • Allergic reactions like itchy, watery
    red eyes

  • Decreased vision

  • Infection

  • Blindness

Also, if you are wearing any contact lenses you
got without a prescription, even if they feel fine, they still could be causing
damage to your eyes.

What you need to know before putting on decorative contact lenses

If you plan on wearing decorative contact
lenses, even if only for a special event, you need to make sure that you

  • Get an eye exam. The fit of
    your contact lenses is very important. A wrong fit can cause damage to
    your eyes. Be sure to always go for follow-up eye exams.

  • Get a prescription. Your
    eye doctor will write you a prescription for all contact lenses,
    including decorative lenses. The prescription should include the brand
    name, correct lens measurements, and expiration date.

  • Know how to care for your contact
    Follow the instructions for wearing, cleaning, and
    disinfecting that come with your contact lenses. If you do not receive
    instructions, ask your eye doctor for them.

  • Only buy contact lenses from a
    company that sells FDA-cleared or approved contact lenses and
    requires you to provide a prescription.
    Anyone selling you
    contact lenses must get your prescription and verify it with your
    doctor. They should request not only the prescription but the name of
    your doctor and a phone number. If they don’t ask for this
    information, they are breaking federal law and could be selling you
    illegal contact lenses.

  • Call your eye doctor right away
    and remove your contact lenses if your eyes are red or have ongoing
    pain or discharge!
    Redness of, pain in, and discharge from
    the eyes are signs of an eye infection. If you think you have an eye
    infection from your contact lenses, remove them and see a licensed eye
    doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) right away! An eye infection
    could become serious and cause you to become blind if it is not

Remember—buying contact lenses without a prescription is

There are a lot of products that you can buy
without a prescription, but they may not be safe or legal. Never buy contact
lenses from a street vendor, beauty supply store, flea market, novelty store, or
Halloween store. Also, never share contacts with anyone else.

Protect your eyes by having an eye exam, getting
a prescription, and buying contact lenses from a legal source.

Source: US Food and Drug Administration.
Decorative contact lenses. http://www.fda.gov/. Updated October 10, 2012. Accessed
August 5, 2013