October Declared Contact Lens Safety Month to Educate Patients on Proper Use
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 45 million people in the United States wear contact lenses. In light of this, Prevent Blindness has designated October as Contact Lens Safety Month with the aim of educating patients about the correct methods of contact lens use to prevent serious vision issues.
Unfortunately, a recent study conducted by the CDC revealed that over 80 percent of contact lens wearers reported engaging in behaviors that put them at risk for contact lens-related eye infections. These behaviors include sleeping or napping while wearing lenses, swimming with lenses, and not replacing lenses and lens storage cases as frequently as recommended.
Colored contact lenses are particularly popular throughout the year for individuals who wish to change the color of their iris. During Halloween, there is a surge in the use of colored contact lenses to enhance costumes.
To promote contact lens safety, Prevent Blindness offers fact sheets, shareable social media graphics, and a dedicated webpage. As part of its Focus on Eye Health Expert Series, Prevent Blindness President and CEO, Jeff Todd, discusses patient advocacy and the potential dangers of misusing contact lenses with Thomas L. Steinemann, MD, a professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University.
During the Halloween season, there is also an increase in the misuse of contact lenses as consumers use cosmetic or decorative contacts to enhance their costumes. However, many consumers may not be aware that all contact lenses are classified as prescription medical devices by the FDA, even when they are not used for vision correction.
According to the FDA, contact lenses are not available over-the-counter. Companies that sell them without a prescription are misbranding the device and violating FTC regulations. Contact lenses sold without a prescription from unlicensed vendors, such as certain online distributors or novelty stores, may be contaminated and/or counterfeit, posing a safety risk.
Improper use of contact lenses can lead to two types of eye infections: acanthamoeba keratitis and fusarium keratitis. Symptoms of these infections may include blurry vision, eye pain, sensation of something in the eye, sensitivity to light, and discharge. If any of these symptoms occur, it is important to remove the lenses and consult an eye care professional immediately.
Trick or treat? Whether it’s Halloween or any other time of the year, contact lens wearers must take extra care when applying and removing eye cosmetics.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises the public to only purchase decorative contacts from retailers that require a prescription and sell FDA-approved products. The Academy warns that lenses not manufactured to meet federal health and safety standards can cause corneal abrasions, ulcers, and keratitis.
It is important for patients to know that selling contact lenses without a prescription is illegal in the United States. Only prescription lenses fitted by an eye specialist should be used.
Prevent Blindness recommends the following practices:
– Never share contacts with others or use someone else’s contacts.
– Use aerosol products such as hair spray or deodorant before inserting lenses.
– Insert lenses before applying makeup and remove them before taking makeup off.
– Use water-soluble cosmetics or those labeled safe for use with contact lenses.
– Use pressed powder eye shadows, as frosted and glittery eye shadows contain particles that can be harmful if they enter the eye.
– Use an eye shadow base to keep shadow in place and out of the eyes.
– Avoid waterproof mascara and eye makeup containing nylon or rayon fibers, as these can flake off, get caught under the contact lens, and scratch the cornea.
“Contact lenses can be used safely and effectively to improve vision,” stated Jeff Todd in a news release. “We ask all contact lens wearers to be diligent and practice good hygiene every day to keep eyes healthy and avoid painful and potentially blinding infections.”