Did you know that purchasing a decorative contact lens without a prescription is actually a crime? After the passing of a federal law in 2005 as part of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, decorative lenses are now regulated items due to the similar medical purpose of a vision-correcting contact lens. Despite this, decorative lenses can be found freely for sale on the internet, in salons, and even in some convenience stores.
In addition to being freely available for purchase, some sellers will be downright dishonest about the risks of decorative lenses. With advertising such as, “one size fit all,” and “you don’t even need to see a specialist to use our product,” it is easy to see why so many are willing to buy and use decorative lenses. Approximately 18% of the American population uses decorative or colored contact lenses, with 28% of these users claiming their lenses were purchased without a prescription. This consumer survey (and resulting public statement), taken by the American Optometric Association, shows just how many individuals are posing potential danger to their eye with unregulated lenses.
While decorative lenses can offer a lot of cool looks for the eye, they may pose a large amount of risk to the both the eye and the lens. Some of the most common effects experienced by people who have purchased poor quality lenses include inflammation of the eye, pain, and infection. Serious reactions may include corneal abrasions (often with contact lenses that are misshapen or rough causing an improper fit) and potential permanent vision loss (due to infection from poorly constructed lenses resulting in scarring of the eye).
Research is being made into the effects of infection from a decorative lens compared to a regulated contact lens. This early research shows that the infections contracted by decorative lens are both more severe, and more frequent, than their prescribed counterparts.
No matter how awesome you think the contact lens will make your eye look, it is ill-advised to use it without at least having a medical professional examine it. Ideally, getting a decorative lens through a prescription will allow for both a safer and a longer -lasting, lens to retain that cool effect for your eye.