Regulating Caring & Competent Eyecare

In Brunswick since 1976


Post-Hollywood use still a source of horror stories


Cosmetic contact lenses were once seen mostly in Hollywood films, to change the colour of actors’ eyes or provide special effects for horror movies. Today, though, Canadian teenagers and adults in search of novelty pick them up at music stores, tattoo parlours – even some drugstores (whose owners should certainly know better).

Canada’s federal government, however, has recently reclassified cosmetic contact lenses as Class II medical devices, and provincial regulations will soon be in place to prevent sale of these devices except by a an eye care professional who is licensed to fit contact lenses, upon receipt of a valid prescription from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. This will significantly reduce the harm done by these lenses.

Why are the Eye Care Professionals doing this? Because cosmetic contact lenses, like prescription contact lenses, can cause serious harm to those who choose them without the help of a trained professional, and wear them without monitoring by a trained professional.

The danger in any contact lens comes from not from the prescription (or lack thereof), but from the fact that the contact lens rests on the surface of the cornea. A person who is prescribed a contact lens (for vision correction or for cosmetic purposes) is shielded from many of the dangers of contact lenses because he undergoes an eye health examination from a medical professional or optometrist before getting the lens, and receives the actual lens from a trained professional contact lens fitter (optician, optometrist or ophthalmologist.). The contact lens fitter monitors the wearer for signs of trouble and instructs him in care and cleaning of the lenses, along with insertion and removal.

The basic danger of contact lenses, as we’ve said, comes from the contact between the lenses and the surface of the eye. Possible complications (quite common) of wear can include corneal edema (swelling of the cornea), giant papillary conjunctivitis (an allergic reaction on the inside of the lids), and corneal ulcers.

Improper maintenance of contact lenses can cause further problems. The surface of a contact lens that has not been properly cleaned and disinfected is an excellent breeding ground for fungi and bacteria. Over-wearing of contact lenses can also cause severe problems with vision due to a lack of oxygen getting through the lenses to the cornea.

In short, contact lenses – any contact lenses – complicate the metabolism and function of the cornea. They should not be sold or worn without adequate prior examination, proper instruction on care and disinfection, and follow-up appointments to detect any problems before they cause irreversible damages.

Don’t believe this? Check out the videos & articles listed below … the videos, especially, have a few ‘eye-openers’. (video from NBC New York) (Video from South Carolina Dept. of Consumer Affairs) (Article in UK Daily Mail) (Article by CBS News) (Case Studies from Ophthalmologists) (You Tube video on permanent damage from cosmetic contacts) (CBS Early Show video on dangers of circle lenses & other contact lenses)