The department's investigators were tipped off by a school nurse who
contacted the office because a student sustained an eye injury from
wearing contact lenses purchased from a convenience store in town.
Colored lenses purchased without proper examinations and fittings
put thousands of Illinois customers at risk of scratches, infections
and potential blindness.
"Young people and their parents need to be aware that a
prescription and proper fitting by a licensed professional is
mandatory, even for colored, cosmetic contact lenses," said Susan
Gold, acting secretary of the Department of Financial and
Professional Regulation. "Protecting consumers from unnecessary
danger of infection is an important part of our responsibility as
Only eye care professionals licensed in Illinois are authorized
to prescribe contact lenses. There are almost 2,000 licensed
optometrists in Illinois, and many have reported seeing patients who
have suffered from infections or corneal scratches as a result of
contact lens problems. Because contact lenses sit directly on the
cornea and limit the amount of oxygen reaching the eye, all contact
lenses pose some risk to wearers. Sales of contact lenses to
consumers without a valid prescription are considered the unlicensed
practice of optometry and subject to cease and desist orders and
civil fines of up to $10,000.
In addition to scratches from ill-fitting lenses, bacteria build
within the eye very rapidly and can cause infections. Some types of
bacteria can cause permanent scarring within 20 hours of the
outbreak, if left untreated. While the infection may look like
pinkeye, an easily treated eye infection, contact lenses can cause
eye ulcers, which must be treated with strong antibiotic medicine.
If left untreated, ulcers can cause partial or total irreversible
Because the health risk is serious and most of the customers
seeking cosmetic contact lenses are teens and young adults, the
Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is partnering
with the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois
Department of Public Health to alert teachers, administrators and
health care professionals in every school district and county in the
state about the serious health and vision problems facing young
people and warning signs to look for in their students and patients.
Illinois residents are encouraged to notify state officials if
they see lenses for sale at retail outlets that do not require a
prescription from a licensed eye care professional. Consumers can
file complaints at www.idfpr.com
or by calling the consumer hotline number 1-888-4REGUL8
[to top of second column]
Common-sense tips for safe use of
lenses only if they are fitted and prescribed by an eye care
Do not purchase
lenses from flea markets, beauty supply stores or costume shops.
Never swim while
wearing contact lenses. There is a risk of eye infection when
contact lenses come into contact with bacteria found in pool
Make sure lenses
are properly cleaned, disinfected and stored.
Wash your hands
before handling your contact lenses.
Never swap or
share your contact lenses with anyone else.
Never sleep while
wearing contact lenses unless they are extended-wear lenses
specifically designed for that purpose.
Follow manufacturer's or eye care
professional's instructions to replace and discard used lenses.
Minimize risk of infection
contact lens case every three to six months.
Use fresh, sterile
water every time you clean your lenses.
Always use fresh
Remove your lenses at night, even if
they are designed for extended wear. They reduce the amount of
oxygen that gets to the cornea, which can stress your eyes and
make them more prone to infection.
Symptoms of eye irritation or
infection -- seek professional care immediately
swelling or pain.
or other discharge.
sensitivity to light.
or gritty feeling.
Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
file received from
Illinois Office of
Communication and Information]