Travis Rush, founder and CEO of Sightbox, and Brad Smith, OD, spoke with Primary Care Optometry News about the dangers of wearing nonprescribed cosmetic contact lenses, like those used as part of Halloween costumes, and said the biggest offenders are often current contact lens wearers who underestimate the risks involved.
Smith added that an email or newswire blast can be helpful to alert a practice’s patients to the dangers of nonprescribed contact lenses, and, as an added bonus, it can serve as a reminder for some to schedule their comprehensive eye exam.
PCON: What kind of dangers are caused by wearing nonprescribed costume lenses?
Smith: There are a few risks with nonprescribed lenses. When they’re not fit and cared for properly, the biggest risk is corneal ulcer. Any time you get a central corneal ulcer you have a chance of losing vision. Any time you are dealing with nonprescribed products that aren’t fit properly or cared for, you run some big risks. I hear about how patients don’t care for these lenses; it’s pretty scary. A central corneal ulcer can drop central vision in that eye and could require surgery to fix it –and it may not be fixable.
Rush: This is why Sightbox is a useful mechanism for doing this the right way. Patients are struggling to find out where to get fitted correctly for cosmetic lenses. We can help facilitate that by finding them an eye doctor where they live, making sure that appointment gets scheduled and making sure there’s follow-up with the doctor to fit the lenses correctly. We also ensure the lenses are delivered and that the lenses prescribed are made of the proper material.
Smith: Proper insertion and removal, proper wear time, not leaving them in overnight and cleaning them properly are all essential components to proper contact lens wear. Not doing so comes with huge risks.
Rush: What a lot of people don’t understand about using water to clean contact lenses is that there’s bacteria in the water; it’s absorbed into the lens and gets into the eye.
PCON: How can optometrists encourage better, safe contact lenses hygiene?
Smith: Optometrists need to be proactive and not be afraid to send email blasts to their patients around September, alerting them to cosmetic contact lens dangers and the importance of comprehensive eye exams. Tell patients how costume lenses are dangerous and the importance of using the proper lens care techniques. We sent out an email blast and it brought in a few patients for comprehensive exams. I think that’s a good way to promote it.
PCON: What else do consumers need to know about this topic?
Rush: If people are trying to get a prescription to wear cosmetic lenses, there are some things we are really trying to advocate for, such as how important doctors are in that process. Also, eye health technology and online tools aren’t bad things, but they need to be used properly. Avoiding going to the doctor is a bad thing; you must have the doctor look inside your eye. It’s important that people understand it’s more than just being able to see.
There are 250 health conditions that can be determined by looking into the eye, conditions that may be affecting the rest of your body and they may be at early stages. Medical doctors may not see some things happening early on, but eyes give early warning signs as to something being wrong.
Smith: People who already wear contact lenses are typically unconcerned with the risks of wearing nonprescribed lenses; they may be overconfident. I think it’s important that they don’t underestimate the effect of taking something made of bad material and sticking it in their eye. They should always alert their doctor to the brand; not all brands are equal.
Disclosures: Rush is the founder of Sightbox. Smith is an equity partner in Rev360 and a founder of Professional Eye Care Associates of America.