A dangerous Halloween accessory found for sale in some local stores is quickly becoming popular.
Despite the popularity, buyers beware: federal law bans the sale of any contact lenses without a prescription. That includes decorative lenses which change your eye color or the appearance of your eyes. Some lenses change your eyes to look like a cat, Lady Gaga or even a doll.
The FDA and the American Academy of Ophthalmology have released multiple public service announcements ahead of Halloween, warning of these illegal contact lenses, which are being sold over the counter across the country, including here in our area.
We wanted to know how this is happening, so we spoke with local optometrist Dr. Gary Nadolsky, who says there is little enforcement on the sale of over-the-counter contact lenses.
"They are obviously not eye professionals, they don't specialize in the health of the eyes, so I don't think there is an interest there," Nadolsky said. "But I would think that is a huge liability."
It's all too easy to get ahold of a pair of these. So far, we've found three stores in Roanoke that sell them.
The consequences of wearing the lenses is frightening. For about $20, you can have turquoise eyes for the night, but doctors tell us the side effects could be much more costly: possibly losing your eyesight altogether.
Don't let the signs fool you, either. The pair we found says they're FDA approved, but they aren't listed anywhere on the FDA's web site.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology shows pictures of patients whose eyes have been severely damaged from wearing these over-the-counter contacts. Some have even gone blind.
Nadolsky explains that colored lenses are thicker than normal and don't allow oxygen to your eyes.
"It can really put patients at risk for infections, or weaken the cornea where you can get permanent damage from scarring or ulcers along those lines," Nadolsky said. "It can really have devastating effects, long-term, on their vision."
If you are interested in decorative lenses, most eye doctors have contact lenses available that could suit your need. Nadolsky says its important to wear decorative lenses safely and have a proper fitting before buying.