October Declared Contact Lens Safety Month to Promote Safe Practices

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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, aiming to educate patients on the proper methods of contact lens use to prevent serious vision issues.

Unfortunately, a recent study by the CDC revealed that over 80 percent of contact lens wearers engage in behaviors that put them at risk for contact lens-related eye infections. These behaviors include sleeping or napping in lenses, swimming in lenses, and not replacing lenses and lens storage cases within the recommended time frame.

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 raise awareness and provide resources, 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.

The Halloween season also sees 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 by the FDA as prescription medical devices, even when not used for vision correction.

According to the FDA, contact lenses are not over-the-counter devices. Companies that sell them as such are misbranding the device and violating FTC regulations by selling contact lenses without a prescription. Contact lenses sold without a prescription from unlicensed vendors, such as certain online distributors or novelty stores, may be contaminated and/or counterfeit, posing safety risks.

Improper use of contact lenses can lead to two types of eye infections: acanthamoeba keratitis and fusarium keratitis. Symptoms may include blurry vision, eye pain, sensation of something in the eye, sensitivity to light, and discharge. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should remove the lenses and consult an eye care professional immediately.

Trick or treat?

During Halloween or any time of the year, contact lens wearers must exercise extra caution 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:

– 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. Frosted and glittery eye shadows contain particles that can be harmful if they get into your eye.

– Use an eye shadow base to help keep shadow in place and out of the eyes.

– Avoid waterproof mascara and eye makeup containing nylon or rayon fibers, as they can flake off, get caught under the contact lens, and scratch the cornea.

“Contact lenses can be used safely and effectively to improve vision,” said Jeff Todd. “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.”

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