Colored Contacts Warning: Illinois regulators crack down on colored contact lenses

October 16, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Illinois regulators have launched a crackdown on colored contact lenses after a student suffered an eye injury while wearing the contacts. Some of the lenses involved not only make eyes different colors but have designs.

Experts tell ABC7 the lenses are fine if an eye professional assists. As we get closer to Halloween, state officials are concerned about what they are already seeing.

Cosmetic contact lenses may be the accessories that make your Halloween costume pop. But these lenses are part of a state investigation of contact lenses being sold without prescriptions.

"They are very popular for Halloween, because they are available at costume shops and flea markets and things like that," said Dr. Brian Zachariah, Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. "They are by definition not fitted, not prescribed. Most people who get them aren't getting any instruction on how to take care of them."

Zachariah is the chief medical coordinator for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. He says his office was called when a school nurse in central Illinois was treating a student with eye redness and irritation.

"The school nurse said, 'Have you done anything to an eye infection in any way?' And the student said, 'The only thing I'm doing different'...and popped out the lens," said Zachariah.

State investigators found more than 100 costume contact lenses being sold at a central Illinois convenience store without a doctor's prescription -- a violation of state law.

Those may be off the market, but state officials warn there are others out there, and without the proper medical fitting and care they can cause permanent damage.

"Your eyes are not only a window to your soul, they are your way of seeing the world around you, and if you lose your vision, that's one of the hardest senses to lose and compensate for," said Zachariah.

The latest investigation has not yet warranted legal action. A similar investigation in January ended with a cease and desist order against a downstate retailer and a fine of $1,500.

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