Over-the-counter Color Contact Lenses May Contain Chemicals Harmful to Eyes

If you’re thinking of getting decorative contact lenses online, you might want to think twice.


In fact, be afraid. Be very afraid. It’s not worth the risk to your vision.


The American Academy of Ophthalmology has issued a warning about over-the-counter cosmetic contact lenses after a new study found that several varieties tested positive for chlorine and other harmful chemicals. These lenses can harm the eyes by causing corneal ulcers or keratitis. Both can result in scarring that impairs vision or causes blindness.


Researchers from Japan, where decorative contact lenses are very popular, published a paper in September that found chlorine and iron in several types of non-prescription colored contact lenses. Researchers say the chemicals may come from colorants used to tint and create patterns on the lenses. Their study also noted that colorants printed or pressed onto some decorative lenses create an uneven texture that could scratch the front of the eyes, potentially increasing the risk of infections that could cause blindness.


Four of the five lenses in the study are not available legally in the United States because they are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. However, many decorative lenses of unknown origin can be bought online without a prescription.

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