Halloween Hazards: Think Twice Before Transforming Your Eyes The American Optometric Association warns consumers: over-the-counter decorative contact lenses are illegal and may cause serious eye infections and possibly permanent vision loss

ST. LOUIS, Oct. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Halloween is a fun holiday, but playing dress up can be serious business.  Consumers spend hours making sure costumes are accessorized just right; however, transforming your eyes by changing their color or appearance with non-corrective, decorative contact lenses to look like a cat, werewolf or vampire can be a dangerous choice.  The American Optometric Association (AOA) is warning consumers about the risks of wearing decorative contact lenses sold illegally, without a prescription from an eye doctor.

According to the AOA's 2012 American Eye-Q® consumer survey, 18 percent of Americans wear these non-corrective, decorative or colored contact lenses. Of those, 28 percent report illegally purchasing the lenses without a prescription and from a source other than an eye doctor, a great concern to doctors of optometry.

"There is no such thing as a 'one size fits all' contact lens," said Dr. Randall Fuerst, chair of the AOA's Contact Lens and Cornea Section.  "Consumers who purchase lenses illegally, without a prescription or without consultation from an eye doctor, put themselves at risk for serious bacterial infections, allergic reactions, or even significant damage to the eye's ability to function, with the potential for irreversible sight loss."

A proper medical eye and vision examination ensures that the individual is a viable candidate for contact lens wear, that the lenses are properly fitted and that the patient is able to safely care for their lenses. 

Since 2005, federal law requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate decorative lenses as medical devices, similar to prescription contact 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. Consumers also report purchasing them at retail outlets, where they are sold as fashion accessories.

"Decorative contact lenses carry the same risks as corrective contact lenses," said Dr. Fuerst.  "Because of this, it's important for consumers to obtain a prescription and familiarize themselves with the information available from an eye doctor to reduce the risk of infection.

The AOA offers the following recommendations for all contact lens wearers:

  • Wear contact lenses only if they are fitted and prescribed by an optometrist.
  • Do not purchase contact lenses from gas stations, video stores, or any other vendor not authorized by law to dispense contact lenses.
  • Never swim while wearing contact lenses. There is a risk of eye infection when contact lenses come into contact with bacteria in swimming pool water.
  • Make sure contact lenses are properly cleaned and disinfected as instructed by your eye-care professional.
  • Make sure you wash your hands before handling and cleaning your contact lenses.
  • Never swap or share contact lenses with anyone.
  • Never sleep while wearing contact lenses unless they are extended-wear lenses specifically designed for that purpose.

For more information about the risks associated with decorative contact lenses, or to find additional resources pertaining to contact lens hygiene and compliance, please visit http://www.aoa.org/x5235.xml.

About the American Eye-Q® survey:

The seventh annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From May 9 – 16, 2012, using an online methodology, PSB conducted 1,009 online interviews among Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of U.S. general population. (Margin of error at 95 percent confidence level)

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 United States.

Doctors of optometry (ODs) are the independent primary health care professionals for the eye. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye.

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 www.aoa.org.

CONTACT: Madonna Duncan
312-255-3143
madonna.duncan@hkstrategies.com

SOURCE American Optometric Association



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