Board issues consumer alert on use of non-prescription contact lenses

As consumers prepare for Halloween, the Virginia Board of Optometry joins the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to caution against the use of non-corrective, decorative contact lenses sold without a prescription or proper fitting by a licensed eye care professional.

According to the FDA, improperly fitted and poor quality decorative contact lenses present a risk for blindness and other eye injury.  The FDA reports that many places illegally sell decorative contact lenses without valid prescriptions and states that consumers should never buy lenses from unauthorized distributors such as street vendors, beach shops, flea markets, beauty supply stores or salons and tattoo parlors. Medical practitioners report an uptick in the number of patients being treated for damage to their eyes. Health hazards include scratched cornea, corneal infection, decreased vision and allergic reaction that can cause permanent loss of sight.  

Consumers are advised to contact MedWatch, the FDA voluntary reporting program at  or by phone at 1-800-FDA-1088 to report a problem linked to the use of cosmetic contact lenses.

The Virginia Board of Optometry, which licenses, regulates and disciplines 1,600 optometrists, recommends consumers follow these FDA tips when purchasing contact lenses.

·         Get an eye exam from a licensed eye care practitioner

·         Get a valid prescription from a licensed eye care practitioner

·         Only buy contact lenses from a seller that requires a prescription

·         Follow contact lens care instructions

·         Seek medical attention if eyes are sore or red or a decrease in vision is noticed after use of contact lenses

·         Never share contact lenses

The FDA is responsible for protecting public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, and products that give off radiation.

The Virginia Board of Optometry is one of 13 health regulatory boards that together compose the Department of Health Professions (DHP) to ensure safe and competent patient care by licensing health professionals, enforcing standards of practice, and providing information to health care practitioners and the public.

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