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Healthy Living >>> Eye & Vision Articles & News

Eyeing up Safety in Contact Lenses

More than 30 million Americans comfortably wear contact lenses, carefully fitted and prescribed by an eyecare professional. But the increased nonprescription use of cosmetic lenses, from tinted colors to striking designs, is causing some concern among healthcare professionals. Cosmetic contact lenses are of particular interest to teens and adults, especially at Halloween time. Reports are surfacing that nonprescription lenses are causing all sorts of eye problems that include corneal damage, scarring, infection, vision loss and, in some rare cases, permanent blindness.

Any contact lens, prescription or nonprescription, has the potential to cause allergic reactions, bacterial infections, corneal abrasions and corneal ulcers, particularly when they are improperly fitted and cared for. But the problem is worsened when people purchase these products without the guidance of an eye specialist.

An optometrist or ophthalmologist takes preventative measures to avoid the complications that contacts may cause, by evaluating your eye to be sure that lenses are not aggravating existing problems. They fit lenses specific to your eye, and instruct you in proper handling and sterilization. Doctors also continue to monitor patients on a regular basis to prevent future problems.

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Cosmetic contact lenses are highly available to the general public; one can find unregulated lenses readily available in locations like novelty stores, websites, and beauty salons. These unregulated lenses, however, mean that users probably do not even know the manufacturer of lenses. Furthermore, there are no assurances that these products are being manufactured using safe, approved materials under sanitary conditions.

Dr. H. Dwight Cavanagh, vice chairman of ophthalmology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas cautions that "By purchasing contact lenses over-the-counter, you would abrogate every single safety guarantee in place." He added that tinted lenses are available in professional offices, even in non-vision-correcting lenses.

Dr. Cavanagh advises, "Letting an underage member of the family use these lenses without supervision is like giving them the car keys without a license and without an adult in the front seat."

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