State regulators warn that colored contact lenses could be dangerous
Send a link to a friend
CHICAGO -- The Illinois
Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is reminding
Illinois contact lens purchasers that buying colored contact lenses
for a Halloween costume or fashion statement from anyone other than
a licensed eye care professional is dangerous. Colored lenses are
popular among high school and college students and are often
purchased at malls and flea markets without proper examinations and
fittings. This puts 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. Good vision and eye health is too
important to risk for the sake of eye color," said Manuel Flores,
acting secretary of financial and professional regulation.
recent years, IDFPR has ordered beauty supply stores and flea market
vendors to immediately stop selling cosmetic, colored contact lenses
without a prescription. It has fined them up to $10,000 for selling
lenses without the proper health care license. All other sales of
contact lenses to consumers are considered the unlicensed practice
"Stopping unlicensed practice is always a challenge, but by
educating consumers and imposing the maximum allowable fine for
every violation, we hope to gain the attention of retailers who are
breaking the law but find the profits hard to give up," said Flores.
"We will continue to invest resources into cutting off the supply of
cosmetic contact lenses and hope for a reduction in the number of
infections as a result."
Only eye care professionals licensed in Illinois are authorized
to prescribe contact lenses. Without a prescription, it is against
the law to sell lenses. There are almost 2,000 licensed optometrists
in Illinois and hundreds of ophthalmologists licensed as physicians.
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 could potentially
limit the amount of oxygen reaching the eye, all contact lenses pose
some risk to wearers. By requiring lenses to be fitted and sold by
professionals, that risk is limited and managed.
In addition to scratches from ill-fitting lenses, another factor
that makes this health threat so pressing is that bacteria build
within the eye very rapidly. Some types of bacteria can cause
permanent scarring within 20 hours of the outbreak, if left
untreated. Additionally, contact lens wearers with irritated eyes
have on occasion been misdiagnosed with pinkeye, an easily treated
eye infection. However, ill-fitting contact lenses can cause eye
ulcers, which must be treated with strong antibiotic medicine. If
left untreated, ulcers can cause partial or total irreversible
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 complaint intake office at 312-814-6910.
[to top of second
Common-sense tips for safe contact
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 in pool water.
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.
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]