piercing blue eyes of a "Game of Thrones" White
Walker on Halloween, or perhaps the milky "blind"
eyes of Arya Stark? Beware of colored contact lenses that are
sold without a prescription because they can cause serious —
even permanent — damage to the eyes.
officials and physicians say the lenses can lead to a host of
ills: infections, abrasions and ulcers. Some varieties can
even lead to corneal hypoxia — when the cornea is starved of
oxygen, said Anna P. Murchison, director of the Wills Eye
emergency department in Philadelphia.
worry about this every year," Murchison said.
get Murchison started on another risky way to change eye
color: using a needle to "tattoo" the whites of the
eye. Canadian model Catt Gallinger is among the latest to try
that ill-advised stunt, and now she is warning others that she
suffered pain and blurry vision as a result.
and her colleagues want all those would-be ghouls and goblins
to know there is a safe way to alter eye color: tinted contact
lenses sold with a prescription. That means an eye specialist
has measured the curvature of the wearer’s eyes, ensuring
that the contacts fit properly. In addition, such lenses are
made of safe materials and are approved by the U.S. Food and
the nonprescription varieties are easy to find this time of
year, both from online retailers and at costume stores —
even though their sale is illegal in at least one respect.
against FDA regulations to sell contacts that have not
undergone agency review. This applies both to contacts that
correct poor vision and to those designed solely to change eye
if a given type of lens is FDA approved, a retailer is running
afoul of Federal Trade Commission rules by selling them
without a prescription, said Alysa S. Bernstein, an attorney
with the agency’s division of advertising practices.
aside, here is why nonprescription contacts can cause vision
lenses that lack FDA approval, generally the cheapest brands,
can be made of impermeable materials. That means oxygen cannot
reach the cornea, and someone who wears such lenses is
literally suffocating the surface of the eye, causing it to
become swollen and cloudy, Murchison said. Some cheap
varieties also contain harmful substances such as lead, a
neurotoxin, and chlorine, which can cause irritation. Others
may be stamped with a design that can irritate the inside of
the eyelid, she said.
that have been reviewed by the FDA, on the other hand, still
can cause vision problems if sold without a prescription,
meaning that they have not been fitted to the wearer’s eyes.
They can be too tight or too loose, leading to rubbing,
inflammation, and infection, Murchison said.
Masquerade store on Columbus Boulevard sells an FDA-approved
variety of lenses without a prescription for $49.99, but
requires buyers to sign two forms: one acknowledging they
bought the lenses without a prescription, the other indicating
they have read a lengthy list of precautions. Among them: Wash
hands before inserting the lenses, and use lens disinfectant
recommended by an "eye care professional."
had one complaint," said general manager Paul Johnston.
"I feel as if the customer is informed. It’s something
stores sell lenses without prescriptions, as well, at prices
ranging from $20 to $40, including one with a window
advertisement for "FDA-Approved Theatrical
Contacts." A store employee declined to comment.
contact-lens merchants are capitalizing on the popularity of
the HBO series "Game of Thrones," selling vivid blue
lenses that allow the wearer to look like the mysterious White
said she had watched one episode. As a physician, her first
reaction was to be alarmed by all the violence. Then she
thought of the potential for eye injury from ill-fitting
advice: Get your eyes measured with a proper exam, and buy a
pair that are approved by the FDA.
vision is worth the price of a prescription," she said.
a different costume, instead.