Feds warn against decorative contact lenses

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SAN DIEGO – The Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about the dangers of purchasing decorative contact lenses, popular around Halloween, from costume stores and online without a prescription.

The multi-agency task force has seized more than 20,000 pairs of contact lenses nationwide, dubbed “Operation Double Vision.”

Agents warn there are still some on shelves in San Diego, according to DHS.

An employee at The Crypt in North Park said the store does sell contact lenses without a prescription. They were even displayed in a glass case, advertised for $19.99 per pair.

Doctors and Homeland Security Agents say not only is selling contact lenses without a prescription illegal, it’s dangerous.

“You're not opening them single use,” said Dr. Sandy T. Feldman, medical director at San Diego’s ClearView Eye & Laser Medical Center. "They're not manufactured in a sterile facility and you don't know really what you're putting in your eye."

She said wearing counterfeit lenses can scratch the eye and lead to infection.

“You can develop [infection] on the cornea, the outer surface of the eye," Dr. Feldman said. "Instead of being clear, it becomes frosted. It’s white."

In the worst cases, an infection would require corrective surgery.

Dr. Feldman looked at photos of the contact lenses being sold at The Crypt. When asked whether they were safe, she said, “No. They’re non-prescription lenses and they haven’t necessarily been tested by the FDA if they didn’t require a prescription.”

Dr. Feldman said she and other doctors are not trying to dampen Halloween spirits. She explained decorative contact lenses can still be worn, but must be obtained with a prescription from an eye doctor.

She suggested visiting a reputable source to order lenses with a prescription from a doctor.

Dr. Feldman said she is available to address any consumer concerns. Her contact information is available online.

The counterfeit lenses being sold illegally are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Therefore, Officer of Criminal Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are working to seize the counterfeit contact lenses, which are illegally imported.


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