My primary focus at the OpticalJedi will always be on eyeglasses, but today I’m taking a small foray into the realm of Contact Lenses to discuss care and maintenance…and sourcing of contacts.
There has recently been many advertisements on Facebook and Twitter for a new contact lens company. They claim to be able to provide the exact same contacts you’ve always been wearing at a dramatically lower cost. I am not here to say whether or not their product is good. But I’m here to provide some warnings about getting contact lenses from a source of this nature.
Contact Lenses are a Medical Device
The FDA has categorized contact lenses as a medical device. And for good reason! Contact lenses fit directly onto your cornea. This direct contact with an exposed portion of your body creates many risks that do not exist with eyeglasses.
When a corrective lens sits directly on your cornea, it creates a warm, moist area ideal for growing bacteria. If lenses are not cleaned regularly (daily disposables excluded for obvious reasons) the contact lens acts as an incubator, allowing bacteria and viruses to grow and multiply at an alarming rate. Wearing contact lenses when you are sick, can be a dangerous proposition.
Even I, an eyecare professional, had a problem with an eye infection because of contact lens use. I thought I had fully recovered from a flu, so I started wearing my contacts again. I had been mistaken. I ended up with a viral flare incubated under the contact lens which created a corneal ulcer.
It may not look like much, but a corneal ulcer is extremely painful, creates strong photophobia (light sensitivity), and in my case, led to my developing a reaction to most contact lens materials. I could not wear contacts for a full 10 years after this happened.
But What If I’m Only Wearing Them For Halloween?
The American Academy of Ophthalmology(AAO) warns that many of the decorative contact lenses that can be bought online and may not be approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. (Contact lenses are considered “medical devices” by the FDA and are regulated. Ones that are sold over-the-counter without a prescription are unregulated and technically breaking the law, per the FDA.) – Source:Self.com
The Halloween contact lenses can be even more dangerous. Contact lenses are more than just a prescription correction. There are additional parameters which effect how the lens sits on your eye. Everyone’s cornea has a slightly different curvature. If the lens does not match the curve of your eye, it can be very uncomfortable, or they might not even stay in the eye, if the curve difference is too extreme. When you order your contacts online, even if they have no correction, the curve and diameter measurements have to work for your eye or you run the risk of at least uncomfortable lenses, and at most an infection.
The additional concern you need to watch for, if you order contact lenses online, is that they may be made with potentially dangerous chemicals not found in more reputable brands and sources:
They can also contain potentially harmful ingredients. Research published in the journal Eye & Contact Lens in 2015 found that non-prescription contact lenses can contain chlorine and iron, among other potentially toxic ingredients, which are used to tint and create patterns on the lenses. During the study, scientists found that one pair seeped chlorine after a routine rinse, and others had an uneven texture that could scratch the surface of the wearer’s eye.
It’s very important to keep in mind that the pigments and dyes used to paint the lenses for theatrical/Halloween can be very dangerous, or even outright poisonous. The best way to make sure the lens you are using is safe, is to get it from a reputable eyecare professional. Also keep in mind, if you wish to get cosmetic contact lenses for a Halloween costume, it can take as long as 3-4 weeks to have them manufactured, after you have your contact lens fitting. If you need them this Halloween, you need to order ASAP.