Commissioner's Blog: Don’t be blind to the risks of novelty contact lenses
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With Acting Consumer Protection Commissioner Gary Newcombe
Due to their popularity at Halloween-time, I recently used my weekly Community News column to remind consumers to have their eyes open to the potential safety risk posed by short-term wear lenses that allow you to change your eye colour temporarily, or to display a fun pattern over your iris.
This week a Facebook post by a mum in the UK, about her daughter's badly grazed corneas and temporary sight loss from wearing coloured fun contact lenses for 8 hours after buying them online, has gone viral with tens of thousands of shares.
You don’t need a prescription to buy novelty contact lenses (also known as cosmetic contact lenses, crazy lenses, fancy lenses or fashion lenses) but Consumer Protection strongly recommends consulting an optical or eye care professional before buying them. Certain pre-existing ocular conditions can mean the products are not suitable for some individuals and may cause damage to their eyes.
Even if there is a no medical reason for you to avoid using contact lenses, a professional testing session with an optician is advisable. If contact lenses are used incorrectly they can cause eye irritations, infections or in the worst case scenario even blindness. To avoid harm you should:
- Follow any safety and care instructions (including how many uses before replacement).
- Ensure lenses are sterilised with appropriate solution before putting them in.
- Not leave them in too long (if you’re unsure how long then ask your optometrist).
- Never share lenses with someone else.
There is no law in WA to specify who can sell novelty contact lenses and there is no age restriction for purchasers either. Despite that, experience tells us that children need to be particularly careful to avoid injuries as a result of the misuse of novelty contact lenses. Sadly a few years ago a 13-year-old girl in Queensland lost the sight in one of her eyes after borrowing a friend’s novelty contact lenses.
Whatever age you are, you must follow basic hygiene because our eyes are so delicate and can react severely to dirt particles or bacteria. Back in 2007 boxer Anthony Mundine had a serious eye infection thought to be caused by him cleaning a contact lens with his saliva before placing it on his eyeball.
Previous cosmetic contact lenses warnings issued by Consumer Protection in 2006 and 2013 can be found on our website www.commerce.wa.gov.au/cp plus there is more information about the dangers of cosmetic contact lenses and a copy of a safety alert publication at www.productsafety.gov.au
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