From athletes to actors and Halloween costumes to fashion accessories, decorative contacts lenses have caught the eyes of many people. Whether looking for a competitive edge, wanting to get in character, putting the finishing touches on your desired look, or supporting your favorite team (think team logo on your eyes) many people turn to decorative contact lenses.
While much of their use purely involves visual appeal, with decorative lens sales increasing significantly at Halloween, some professional athletes now use colored contact lenses because they say it improves their athletic performance. Examples include Brian Roberts (second baseman for the Orioles) who has worn tinted contacts during day games to improve visibility and A.J. Pierzynski (White Sox catcher) who wears them in lieu of sunglasses, which can slip, get sweaty and add unwanted bulk. While research has yet to prove that colored contacts do actually improve performance, SIVault reports that many athletes in a variety of sports, including baseball, football and golf, believe they do enhance performance.
Regardless of the reason for wearing them, buying colored contacts is easy these days as they are readily available through many retail stores and on the Internet. Unfortunately, wearing decorative/colored contact lenses could ultimately cost a person their vision.
In an effort to prevent permanent eye damage and possibly blindness, heed the following two rules when purchasing decorative contact lenses:
Rule #1 – Beware of lawbreakers. Contact lenses – whether corrective or not – are regulated by the FDA. Any vendor not requiring a prescription from your eye doctor and asking for your doctor’s contact information is breaking the law. Only buy contacts – prescription or decorative – from a company that is FDA-cleared to sell contact lenses.
Rule #2 – Consult an expert. An eye doctor will make sure contacts fit properly as well as teach you how to properly care for your contacts and in turn your eyes. Your eye doctor can also help you prevent significant eye disease and damage.
To help implement these rules, make sure to include the following non-negotiables when purchasing and wearing decorative (colored) contact lenses:
- Individual fit. Contacts, prescription or not, are not one-size-fits all, so don’t share contacts. An eye doctor can help you find lenses that fit your eyes, thus reducing the chance of damage to the eye from improper fit. Contacts that don’t fit right can scratch the eye, cause an infection and decrease vision. All of these can lead to loss of vision and blindness.
- Proper care. Read and follow the instructions that should come with your contacts as well as those given to you by your eye doctor. Taking care of your contacts and eyes will go a long way in preventing significant inconvenience, health care cost, and even permanent – and preventable – issues.
- Communication. Tell your eye doctor why you want the contacts, and then be sure to go to any follow-up visits to make sure the lenses fit properly and don’t cause any irritation. Let your eye doctor know of any discomfort – even if seemingly minor – with your contacts since damage to eyes is often cumulative and therefore unnoticeable until the problem becomes severe and causes permanent damage.
- A prescription. Getting a prescription from an eye doctor ensures you get the contacts that are right for you. Quality contact retailers will not only ask for this prescription but for your eye doctor’s name and phone number as well.
- Awareness. Know the signs of eye damage, which include redness, pain that doesn’t go away and decreased vision. Remove your contacts, and then see an eye doctor immediately if you notice any of these signs of eye damage.
Having eyes like a cheetah or your favorite fashion model may seem fun at the time, but purchasing from an unauthorized seller and leaving your eye doctor out of the mix can not only turn a $30 vacation adventure into $2,000 medical bills (check out Laura’s story) but can result in an agonizing recovery process, partial vision loss and even complete blindness.
Be smart about what you put into your eye to help ensure good eye health for a lifetime.