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Contact Lenses Pose Danger When Purchased Without Prescription

pickett 009

pickett 009

Melanie Pickett, O.D., who prescribes contact lenses for many of her patients, says it’s dangerous to buy lenses from a website without a prescription or a lens fitting.

“Buying non-prescription cosmetic lenses could lead to serious vision problems,” said Dr. Pickett. “While young girls may be drawn to the look achieved with the lenses – that of very large iris with only a little of the white of the eye showing – it’s essential that an eye care professional assist with the proper fit of any contact lenses.”

The look achieved by the lenses has been made popular in a new video that features entertainer Lady Gaga, whose wide-eye look is being copied by her devotees. The look also is popular in Japanese cartoons called anime.

Dr. Pickett said the lenses may feel comfortable but could be doing harm if the fit is not proper. “Sadly, some of these changes may be irreversible,” Dr. Pickett said, explaining that the use of tight lenses can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the eye, causing abnormal blood vessel growth in the cornea.

“Once these vessels grow, they are permanent. If left unchecked, the blood vessels can grow through the line of sight, causing permanent vision impairment,” Dr. Pickett said.

That’s why optometrists monitor the lenses worn by their patients and assist them with obtaining a lens that fits properly, she said. Dr. Pickett also instructs her patients on the proper care and cleaning of the lenses and the cases in which they are stored.

“Bacterial infections can be painful and permanently blinding,” she said.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology says the lenses, also known as circle lenses, are an “emerging and dangerous trend among teenagers and young adults.”  Contact lenses are a medical device that requires a prescription, a proper fitting and a commitment to care by the wearer, the AAO said in a statement on its website.

Individuals who are considering buying the lenses should know they have not been approved for use by the FDA. For more information about contact lenses, go to


The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute will be constructed over the next 12 months on the IUPUI campus, becoming the new home of the Department of Ophthalmology. For more than 100 years, doctors and staff in the Department have provided excellent patient care, educated physicians, advanced clinical and biomedical research in vision sciences and offered humanitarian service to the citizens of Indiana.  Learn more about the Department of Ophthalmology at

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