(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine along with Prevent Blindness Ohio and the Ohio Optical Dispensers Board are warning consumers about the dangers of over-the-counter sales of decorative contact lenses during this Halloween season. According to the Optical Dispensers Board, the number of consumer complaints filed regarding the illegal sale of cosmetic contact lenses and the number of resulting cease and desist orders issued to violating businesses have shown a steady increase after a period of decline, not only during the Halloween season, but all year long.
In fiscal year 2009, the Optical Dispensers Board issued 13 cease and desist orders based on consumer complaints. In fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012 there were 12, 16, and 15, respectively, such orders issued. There have been 15 cease and desist orders issued so far this year.
“As we prepare for Halloween, we want to remind Ohio families that over-the-counter sales of decorative contact lenses are illegal,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Contact lenses are medical devices, and if they are not administered properly, they can cause serious eye infections that can lead to permanent damage, including blindness.”
DeWine strongly encourages Ohioans to report the illegal sales to the Ohio Optical Dispensers Board at (614) 466-9709. As a U.S. senator, DeWine sponsored in 2005 the legislation that requires consumers to obtain a prescription from a licensed professional to purchase contact lenses, including corrective and non-corrective lenses.
“Decorative contacts in various styles and colors have become increasingly trendy in making a fashion statement, especially for teens. And, colored or decorative non-corrective contact lenses have become a popular element of Halloween costumes. While these lenses can add a fun flourish to a costume, they can also result in devastating eye infections, scarring and even blindness,” said Sherry Williams, President and CEO of Prevent Blindness Ohio.
Eye pain, bacterial infections, and corneal ulcers are caused by ill-fitting lenses. 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 more than 16 times more likely than those seen in vision correcting (“regular”) lenses.
“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 Ohio volunteer. “Parents should be on the alert to protect their children’s vision by assuring that their contact lenses are worn only under the supervision of an eye doctor.”
The mission of the Optical Dispensers Board is to protect the public by regulating the practice of the dispensing of all contact lenses, whether worn for corrective or decorative purposes. Legally, all contact lenses must be purchased with a valid prescription. Black market decorative contact lenses have been made available to the public at such places as gas stations, beauty supply stores, and Halloween costume shops. These black market lenses are sold to the public without the benefit of a proper fit or education about the care and use of the contact lenses from qualified, licensed eye care professionals.
“The Optical Dispensers Board wants to remind the public that it is illegal for businesses to sell cosmetic contact lenses, even the contact lenses that provide no visual correction, without requiring a prescription from an eye doctor. In addition, only a licensed optician, ophthalmologist or optometrist has the authority to dispense contact lenses. We encourage the ophthalmic community and citizens of Ohio to report illegal sales and dispensing of contact lenses,” said Nancy Manns, Executive Director of the Ohio Optical Dispensers Board. “The Optical Dispensers Board is committed to continue the fight against the illegal sales of contact lenses and will continue to work with Attorney General DeWine’s office to stop this dangerous practice.”
Prevent Blindness Ohio 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.
Be watchful about your child’s or teen’s appearance. If they are wearing cosmetic contacts, question them about where they obtained them.
Consumers with questions about purchasing cosmetic contact lenses may contact the Ohio Optical Dispensers Board at (614) 466-9709 or www.optical.ohio.gov
Ohio Attorney General's Office
Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840
Prevent Blindness Ohio
Stacie Lehman: 800-301-2020, ext. 119
Ohio Optical Dispensers Board
Nancy Manns: 614-466-9707