Doctors say decorative contact lenses a health risk

Doctors say decorative contact lenses a health risk

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by Chris Willis, KGW Unit 8 Investigative reporter

kgw.com

Posted on October 24, 2013 at 5:34 PM

Updated Monday, Oct 28 at 12:19 PM

PORTLAND -- Decorative and novelty contact lenses are popular this time of year, but health experts warn they're very dangerous, too.

The wild designs and bright colors can make a good Halloween costume even better. They come in a variety of colors and crazy designs. And some say they are a great accessory to a Halloween costume.

“The ones I wore were just blue, where they made my eyes really blue except right at the edges where you could still see my brown, and right in the very middle,” said Trina Carasco.

As Halloween superstores pop up all over the Portland area, customers are asking for the lenses, saying they are a must-have for this year’s costume.

“I got purple ones, and so, everyone thought my eyes were purple,” said Kasandra Kinjerski.

She admitted that they took some getting used to. “They were irritating at first, because it’s something you have to poke at your eye to get them in," she said.

Now health officials are telling consumers to see the dangers clearly. The Food and Drug Administration is working to seize counterfeit contact lenses, imported decorative lenses and lenses unapproved by the FDA. They’re calling it “Operation Double Vision” stating, “it is illegal to purchase or sell contact lenses of any kind without a prescription.”

Eye doctors said the damage from using these decorative lenses can be immediate. “You can get a viral infection, a so-called pink eye, you can get a bacterial infection, which is much more serious and which can leave a permanent scarring on your cornea, and frequently you get chronic eye irritation,” said Dr. Rick Fraunfelder.

Fraunfelder is a Professor of Ophthalmology at OHSU’s Casey Eye Institute. He admits the decorative lenses add an interesting look to a Halloween costume, but said the dangers far outweigh the benefits.

“The reason damage is done,” he said, “is multi-factorial. It’s not only because there is no standard of how they’re produced or where they’re from. They’re not made under the auspices of our FDA. But also because many times people that use them are not trained to use contact lenses.”

People who use them, told KGW Unit 8 they didn’t think about the potential damage, but said the irritation was certainly noticeable.

 Trina Carasco said she’ll think twice before using them again.

Medical experts also explained that there is a way to safely wear these decorative lenses. And that’s under the care of a licensed professional with a prescription, and not through an online purchase or a novelty shop.

“You can come to this institute or many other eye care providers around the state and you can get tinted contact lenses that look really nifty for Halloween," Fraunfelder said.

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