Novelty Contact Lenses Can be Health Hazard

Image: Courtesy AP
Image: Courtesy AP

Reporter: Shannon Samson

Even your eyes can be accessorized these days.

Just search on the Internet to find contact lenses that support your favorite team or make you look spooky on Halloween. One popular style, called "dead eye", is so dramatic the wearer can't see out of them.

Actually, experts say any of these lenses can have that effect if they shift during use. Optometrist Larry Woods says, "You have your pupil covered up by the opaque part of the lens and you've not been instructed as to what to do when that happens. You're in a risky situation at that point."

It's Christy Knight's job to sit down with patients and teach them how to wear and care for their contact lenses. Still, plenty of patients end up getting infections. "All the handling and everything else that you touch, and also so many people want to take them out and rinse them with water or put them in their mouth and that is the worst thing you can do."

Imagine what people are doing who don't get the lecture. They wear lenses that don't fit. They're sleeping and swimming in them, sharing them with friends and if they're cleaning them at all, they may not be doing it properly. Dr. Woods says, "There's a tendency for people to damage lenses as well if they're not taught to take it out properly and so the next time they put that lens in, it may have a tear in it that they may not realize before that can lead to corneal injury."

Corneal injury can lead to infection. These conditions not only impair vision, they can lead to blindness or eye loss. Dr. Woods says it's important to remember that contact lenses are medical devices, and if you don't need to be wearing them to see, you're putting yourself at risk unnecessarily.

One clinical journal reports that HIV transmission is a potential risk among people who share contact lenses, although no cases have been documented.