Answers can be displayed by clicking once on the questions link.1: Why can’t decorative contact lenses be purchased on the Internet or in drug stores without a current prescription?
The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) classifies all contact lenses as medical devices, whether they correct vision or are simply used for cosmetic purposes such as to change one’s eye color.1 In the United States, contact lenses cannot be obtained legally without a prescription. The prescription shows that the contact lenses were fit by a qualified eye care professional. There is no such thing as an “over-the-counter” contact lens.
There are several problems potentially associated with wearing decorative (i.e., cosmetic tints, theatrical, "Halloween,” or "circle”) contact lenses if purchased on the Internet or in drug stores. If they are obtained without a prescription and without appropriate lens care instructions, fitting, and follow-up care, their use can result in complications including eye infections and permanent loss of vision.(2,3,4,5,6,7)
There are numerous reports detailing infections resulting in significant vision loss in individuals using cosmetic contact lenses obtained from improper sources without medical supervision.(3,4,5,8,9) These infections include not only common infections and complications but also more rare sight-threatening conditions such as Acanthamoeba keratitis or rare bacterial infections.(10,11,12) There are many prescription cosmetic contact lenses available through your optometrist that have been shown to be safe when properly prescribed and monitored by an eye care professional.13 Consult your eye care provider to discuss healthy cosmetic contact lens options and to review the best strategies for care and handling of these lenses.
Not at this time; however, prototype contact lenses for sustained drug release are being investigated and may be available in the near future.(1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) The advantages of having drops reach the eye in a slower fashion, like that which would occur though a contact lens delivery method, could include more drug reaching the eye and improved patient compliance..(1,10,11) When drops are instilled into the eye, most of the medication is washed away by the tears so that only between 1-7% of the eye drop is actually absorbed by the eye.10 In addition, a drug-eluting contact lens may reduce the current 24-59% noncompliance that exists with patients taking topical medications for glaucoma, a potentially sight-threatening condition.(11,12) Disadvantages to this technology includes its high cost, processing and storage issues and difficulty with control over the rate and concentration of the drug delivered to the eye.7
Contact lenses are medical devices, the fitting of which requires the expertise of an eye care professional.1 Contact lenses should be prescribed by a licensed practitioner. Hygiene and proper care of the lenses is very important to avoid infections and other problems.2
Studies have shown that patients who purchase their lenses on the internet have a higher risk of contact lens-related complications.(2,3) Additionally, contact lenses ordered online or from another third party generally cannot be returned to the prescribing doctor unless purchased through the prescribing doctor's office.