CHICAGO—Prevent Blindness, the nation’s oldest volunteer non-profit eye health organization, has declared October as Contact Lens Safety Month. Contact lenses, which are worn by an estimated 45 million people in the U.S., according to the FDA, are classified as medical devices and it is important for consumers to use them safely and under the direction of an eyecare professional, according to a recent Prevent Blindness announcement. Prevent Blindness seeks to provide the public with information to keep eyes healthy while using contact lenses. More information is available here.
The FDA states that contact lenses are not over-the-counter (OTC) devices. Companies that sell them as such are misbranding the device and violating Federal Trade Commission regulations by selling contact lenses without a prescription, the Prevent Blindness announcement noted.

Contact lenses sold without a prescription from unlicensed vendors such as certain online distributors, novelty stores or tattoo parlors may be contaminated and/or counterfeit and therefore not safe to use.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there are a number of things that can cause a contact lens-related infection. Some causes of infection may include:

• Using extended-wear lenses.
• Sleeping in your contact lenses.
• Having microbes build up under the lens.
• Herpes virus.
• Bacteria, fungi, or parasites.
• Not keeping lenses or cases clean, or reusing or topping off contact lens solution.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that there is no evidence to suggest contact lens wearers are more at risk for acquiring COVID-19 than eyeglass wearers. Nevertheless, contact lens wearers should continue to practice safe contact lens wear and care hygiene habits, Prevent Blindness noted.

Wearing contact lenses, especially sleeping in the lenses, increases the risk of both infectious and noninfectious keratitis. Keratitis, also known as “corneal ulcer,” is an inflammation of the cornea—the clear, dome-shaped window located at the front of the eye that covers the iris and pupil. Keratitis can cause permanent vision loss.

For more information on keratitis, visit the new Prevent Blindness online resource here.