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Do not buy illegal colored contacts

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warnings on their website against buying illegal colored contacts which can have severe effects on eyesight including blindness. They are also known as decorative or fashion contact lenses, not for vision correction but merely to change eye appearance.

Contact lenses are medical devices regulated by the FDA so advertising them as cosmetics or selling them without a prescription is against the law. An ophthalmologist or optometrist must measure individuals' eyes to properly fit contacts. The FDA website says a poor fit can cause:

  • "scratches on the cornea (the clear dome of tissue over the iris - the part of the eye that gives you your eye color)
  • corneal infection (an ulcer on the cornea)
  • conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • decreased vision
  • blindness."

Never buy contacts from unauthorized distributors such as street vendors, salons or beauty supply stores, boutiques, flea markets, novelty stores, Halloween stores, record or video stores, convenience stores, beach shops or on the Internet unless a prescription is required.

Colored contacts are okay if you

  • obtain an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor
  • get a valid prescription including the brand name, lens measurements and expiration date
  • buy the lenses from a seller in person or online that requires you to provide a prescription
  • use the proper solution to keep them clean and moist to avoid infections
  • follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing them
  • visit an eye doctor for regular follow-up exams
  • see the doctor immediately when signs of infection are present, redness,
    eye pain that does not go away after a short time, or a decrease in vision.

Do not buy the bigger than normal anime or circle lenses that give the doll-like look because they are not FDA approved. The FDA cites an example of what can go wrong. Laura Butler from West Virginia in July 2010 bought at a beach souvenir shop a pair of blue contacts for thirty dollars and ended up with $2,000 in medical bills, weeks of excruciating pain and doctor's visits and almost lost an eye.

Watch the attached video for samples of the appearance of these contacts.

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