Contact lenses are worn by over 45 million people in this country, according to the CDC. The reason is clear. These people can correct their vision using tiny and ultra-thin pieces of plastic, which are fitted onto the eye in order to correct refractive errors, astigmatism, and other eye anomalies.
For all these people, the process of getting and wearing contact is simple. Visit an optometrist and receive a prescription, then order the contacts or buy them from a local store.
That prescription is essential to this process. Sadly, many people are opting to wear non-prescription contact lenses. That is where the problems begin.
At the Dry Eye Center of Maryland, we see quite a few patients who have experienced one or more eye issues because of this dangerous trend.
We feel it is important to educate the public about the eye issues that can arise from using non-prescription contact lenses, particularly those bought and worn around Halloween.
Decorative Contacts at Halloween: A Growing Trend
Before we begin this section, we should add that we have nothing against prescribed contact lenses that are designed to change one’s appearance, even during the year’s most horror-filled holiday. Prescription lenses can be used to alter the eye color and even correct cosmetic deficiencies in the cornea or iris.
Unfortunately, many people are forgoing a visit to their optometrist or eye care store before buying colored or appearance-altering contacts. Instead, they are turning to shady online locations like Craigslist, Facebook, and Wish.
The FDA has warned that non-prescription contact use is not only on the rise, but the dangerous practice is leading to some pretty serious problems, not all of them eye health related.
Non-Prescription Contacts May Be Against the Law
If you buy colored contacts by any person or organization that advertises the lenses as “cosmetic” or “over the counter,” those vendors are in violation of the law. Contact lenses are considered medical devices that are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Don’t be complicit and ensure you only buy contacts that are prescribed for your health, safety, and protection.
Contact Lenses Must Be Properly Fitted
Despite what some colored contact lens vendors would have you believe, contacts are not one-size-fits-all. Only an ophthalmologist or optometrist can determine the proper size and shape of the lens to suit your vision needs. Each eye must be measured using delicate instrumentation to determine the size, but also how each eye will respond once the contacts are fitted into place. If the lenses fit poorly once you put them in, you may be asking for trouble.
Other Issues Associated with Non-Prescription Contact Lenses
Aside from breaking the law and improper size, most vendors of non-prescription contacts do not tell you how to care for the lenses properly. Here are a few issues we often see with people who wear these types of lenses only to end up with one or more serious eye conditions.
Dirty Hands: Before handling prescription contact lenses, your optometrist will instruct you to wash and dry your hands first. Many non-prescription contact lens wearers merely put them in without so much as a trip to the restroom. This practice is unsanitary and creates the ideal scenario for a fungus or infection to develop.
Extended Use: Eyes are designed to receive oxygen and lubrication on a regular basis. Wearing non-prescription contacts for too long deprives your eyes of air and can ultimately lead to infection.
Improper Storage: While people who wear non-prescription contacts may use a designated contact case, many do not wash their cases out between each use. Bacteria and other impurities can find its way into the solution, which in turn can then find its way transferred from the contacts into the eye.
Sleep Wearing: Sleeping in your contacts, unless they are specifically designed for sleep wearing, is not something we recommend. As you sleep, the contact lens may tighten around the eye, essentially suffocating the delicate ocular orb. In extreme cases, lesions and abrasions can develop, leading to a host of other eye issues.
Solution Recycling: Contact lens solution should be tossed out and the case cleaned between usage. Many non-prescription contact lenses wearers were not instructed on this point, leaving them open to infection and other eye troubles.
Potential Eye Issues from Wearing Non-Prescription Lenses
Even if you follow all the precautions, non-prescription contact lenses can negatively affect your eyes and vision. Here are a few common eye problems you should know.
The cornea is the clear dome of tissue that fits over the iris and gives your eye its color. Even the tiniest scratch can lead to painful irritation and infection.
A scratch is not always necessary to experience an eye infection. You can also get an ulcer or sore on the cornea, which can lead to a host of other problems, including but not limited to loss of eyesight.
Most of us know this ocular condition by its nickname: “Pink Eye” and by the symptoms, which are red and inflamed eyes. Pink Eye can lead to itchy and painful eyes. In extreme cases, a loss of vision can develop, even blindness.
If problems worsen, you may lose vision in the affected eye. You never truly realize how much you rely on your sight until it’s diminished. Non-prescription contact lens wearers take heed: If you like your vision the way it is, get a prescription from a certified optometrist and wear legitimate prescription contact lenses from now on.
As a rule, you should never put anything into your eyes that isn’t recommended by your doctor. Your optometrist will determine which contact lenses are right for you. The alternative is sticking an alien object into your eyes. You never know what’s going to happen until it does. By then, it may be too late. Protect your eyes and opt for prescription contact lenses from now on.
Hopefully, we have scared you into seeing straight by not wearing non-prescription contact lenses. There are too many dangers, and far too many prescription options available for you to go that route.
The lesson is this: If you’re ever online and someone tries to sell you non-prescription contact lenses, hopefully, you will look the other way. We see too many dry eye cases due to non-prescription lenses, and we want you to avoid serious eye care issues at all costs.