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Eye Infections: Definitely Not a Fashion Statement

Aug. 31, 2000 — When it comes to contact lenses, many teenagers aren’t thinking or seeing clearly, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). Due to the risk of infection and vision loss, the group has issued a warning against tinting contacts with food coloring and other dyes. Not surprisingly, eye doctors also discourage swapping lenses with other kids.

“Optometrists from all over the country are receiving calls from parents and school nurses asking about the safety of this cosmetic fad,” says optometrist Robert Davis, OD, past chair of the AOA Contact Lens Section. “But food coloring usually isn’t sterile, so it puts kids at risk for serious eye infections, some of which can lead to a loss of vision,” he tells WebMD.

Swapping cosmetic or prescription contact lenses can also increase the risk of infection because people can pass bacteria and viruses on to other people if the lens is not properly cleaned. Furthermore, because it is not a good idea to switch prescription medicines among other people, the same rule applies to contact lenses, as they are also prescribed by a doctor.

Some kids think of contacts as a fashion accessory, but they’re really medical devices that should only be used appropriately, Davis adds. “So teenagers that have been tinting or swapping lenses should see their [eye care specialist] immediately, especially if they’ve got any of these signs of infection.”

Davis says symptoms include:

  • Pain or discomfort
  • Blurred or fuzzy vision
  • Redness or irritation

“About a quarter of all eye infections result in temporary or permanent vision loss,” says Harold Stein, MD, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Toronto. He adds that infections can require drug treatment and downtime from wearing lenses, but “they can often be prevented if kids use good common sense.”

According to Stein, some good rules of thumb for contact lens wearers are:

  • Follow instructions and keep follow-up appointments.
  • Wash hands thoroughly and store lenses in a clean case.
  • Avoid homemade saline solution or moistening with saliva.

“Hair care products and cosmetics increase the risk of infection even more,” Davis tells WebMD. “So young girls in particular should pay close attention to infection control measures.”

For those people, Davis suggests:

  • Blink frequently while drying hair to prevent eyes from drying.
  • Use hairspray and oil-free moisturizer before inserting lenses.
  • Put in soft lenses before applying makeup, hard contacts afterward.
  • Use only water-based hypoallergenic makeup foundation.
  • Avoid lash-extending or waterproof mascara.
  • Take out lenses before removing makeup.

Of course, colored contact lenses are available through your optometrist or ophthalmologist. “Unfortunately, they’re also available on the street for much less. The tints are safe, but there’s no way to ensure a good fit or that kids learn how to handle them safely,” Davis cautions.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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