Illinois officials issue warnings about colored contact lenses

By WEEK Producer

Illinois officials issue warnings about colored contact lenses

October 16, 2012 Updated Nov 4, 2013 at 5:17 AM CDT

CHICAGO -- They may be "eye-catching", but Illinois officials are warning consumers to stay away from colored contact lenses.

According to a press release from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), a central Illinois convenience store surrendered 41 boxes and 54 single-lens non-prescription colored contact lenses on Tuesday.  This occurred after a school nurse reported to investigators that a student received minor eye injuries from wearing the contacts purchased at the store.

“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, IDFPR.  “Protecting consumers from unnecessary danger of infection is an important part of our responsibility as regulators.”

In addition to scratches from ill fitting lenses, the IDFPR says bacteria can build within the eye very rapidly and can cause infections.  Some types of bacteria can cause permanent scarring within twenty hours of the outbreak if left untreated.  Contact lenses can also cause eye ulcers which must be treated with strong antibiotic medicine.  If left untreated, ulcers can cause partial or total irreversible blindness.

"They are very popular for Halloween because they are available at costume shops and flea markets and things like that," said Dr. Brian Zachariah of the IDFPR.  "They are by definition not fitted, not prescribed.  Most people who get them aren't getting any instruction on how to take care of them." 

The IDFPR has issued these tips for safely wearing contact lenses: 

* Wear contact lenses only if they are fitted and prescribed by an eye-care professional.
* 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 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.

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