October Declared Contact Lens Safety Month to Promote Eye Health

In the United States, approximately 45 million people wear contact lenses, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To raise awareness about the importance of proper contact lens use and prevent vision issues, Prevent Blindness has designated October as Contact Lens Safety Month.

A recent study conducted 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 risky behaviors include sleeping or napping with lenses, swimming with 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 educate patients on 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.

It is important to note that all contact lenses, even those used for cosmetic purposes, are classified as prescription medical devices by the FDA. Therefore, they should only be obtained with a prescription from licensed vendors. Selling contact lenses without a prescription is considered misbranding and violates FTC regulations. Contact lenses sold without a prescription may be contaminated or counterfeit, posing potential risks to users.

Improper use of contact lenses can lead to eye infections such as acanthamoeba keratitis and fusarium keratitis. Symptoms of these infections include blurry vision, eye pain, sensation of a foreign object in the eye, sensitivity to light, and discharge. If any of these symptoms occur, it is crucial to remove the lenses and seek immediate assistance from an eye care professional.

During Halloween or any time of the year, contact lens wearers should exercise extra caution when applying and removing eye cosmetics. The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises purchasing decorative contacts only from retailers that require a prescription and sell FDA-approved products. Non-compliant lenses can cause corneal abrasions, ulcers, and keratitis.

It is illegal to sell contact lenses without a prescription in the United States. Only contact lenses prescribed by eye specialists should be used. Prevent Blindness recommends several safety measures, including not sharing contacts, applying aerosol products before inserting lenses, removing lenses before removing makeup, using water-soluble cosmetics labeled safe for contact lens use, and avoiding certain types of eye shadows and mascara that can potentially harm the eyes.

“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.”

By promoting contact lens safety, Prevent Blindness aims to ensure that individuals can enjoy the benefits of contact lenses while maintaining optimal eye health.

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