Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine Joins Prevent Blindness, Ohio Vision Professionals Board to Warn Against Dangerous Cosmetic Contact Lenses
Columbus, OH (Oct. 18, 2018) – Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness, and the Ohio Vision Professionals Board have joined forces to warn consumers about the dangers of wearing decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription this Halloween season.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 45 million people in the United States wear contact lenses. Many consumers may not be aware that contact lenses are medical devices and are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Additionally, the FDA states that contact lenses are not over-the-counter (OTC) devices and companies that sell them as such are misbranding the device and violating Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations by selling contact lenses without having a valid prescription.
"Wearing contacts without a prescription could cause damage to a person's eyes," Attorney General DeWine said. "Non-prescription contacts can add creativity to a costume or bring convenience to a person's routine, but they can also cause serious harm. I encourage consumers to buy contacts from a licensed eye care professional. Your eyesight is too important to risk using non-prescription contacts."
The Ohio Vision Professionals Board warns that cosmetic contacts may be sold illegally online — including on Craigslist or, most recently, via Facebook — or in costume stores, tattoo parlors, beauty supply stores, truck stops, wig shops, gas stations, convenience stores, or thrift stores.
Kathleen Eagan, Executive Director of the Ohio Vision Professionals Board, says, “The Ohio Vision Professionals Board takes the dangers of buying over-the-counter contact lenses very seriously. We are proud to partner with Prevent Blindness on efforts to educate the public about the dangers of illegal contact sales without the benefit of professional evaluation and instruction on the proper care and wearing of contact lenses. If you are aware of illegal contact dispensing we encourage you to notify the Vision Professionals Board.”
Contact lenses are a good option for many as an alternative to eyeglasses. However, the use of contact lenses also brings a higher risk of infections. Causes may include sleeping in lenses when not approved by an eye doctor, not cleaning the lenses or lens case properly, sharing lenses, or wearing contact lenses during water activities.
Ill-fitting lenses can cause eye pain, bacterial infections, and corneal ulcers. One study found that wearing decorative lenses increased the risk for developing keratitis, a potentially blinding infection that causes an ulcer in the eye. This increased risk was over 16 times more likely than those seen in vision correcting (“regular”) lenses.
“It may be tempting to create a unique look for Halloween or other social events by changing the look of your eyes. But beware that using cosmetic contact lenses accessed without a prescription from an eye doctor or borrowed from someone else is asking for trouble. Infections, scarring and even blindness can result,” said Sherry Williams, President and CEO of The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness.
“I’ve seen many young patients who were not aware of the dangers of these products and are now living with permanent vision loss,” said Thomas L. Steinemann, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University/MetroHealth Medical Center and a Prevent Blindness volunteer. “Even if the lenses are cosmetic or non-correcting, they are still classified as medical devices and should only be prescribed by an eye care professional.”
Prevent Blindness offers the following safety tips regarding cosmetic contact lenses:
- Always visit a licensed eye care professional to be fitted for cosmetic contact lenses.
- Never buy contact lenses without a prescription.
- Always clean and disinfect contact lenses according to instructions.
- Always use water-soluble cosmetics or those labeled safe for use with contact lenses. Do not apply skin creams or moisturizers too close to the eyes.
- Never wear opaque lenses if you have any problems with night vision.
- Never share or trade your contact lenses with anyone.
- Seek medical attention right away and remove your contact lenses if your eyes are red or have ongoing pain or discharge. Be watchful about your children’s or teens’ appearance. If they are wearing cosmetic contacts, question them about where they obtained them.
The non-profit group has a dedicated webpage with free information at: http://www.preventblindness.org/wearing-contact-lenses.
Attorney General DeWine encourages Ohioans to report illegal sales of contact lenses to the Ohio Vision Professionals Board at 614-466-9709. As a U.S. Senator, DeWine sponsored the legislation that requires consumers to obtain a prescription from a licensed professional to purchase contact lenses, including corrective and non-corrective lenses.
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.