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Beware of Over-the-Counter Contact Lenses

Want to make your brown eyes blue? You've got lots of company. Decorative contact lenses have grown more and more popular, especially among the young. You can even find lenses that look like cat eyes or sports team logos.

You can buy contacts with no prescription at some beauty salons, flea markets and Web sites. But those contacts may be trouble. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that non-prescription lenses raise major risks of blindness and eye injuries.

The dangers linked with contact lens wear (which often stem from less oxygen reaching the cornea) don't change whether you're wearing the lenses to fix a vision problem or for cosmetic reasons.

Contacts that aren't properly prescribed and cared for can lead to allergic reactions, bacterial infections, corneal ulcers and corneal scrapes. Some problems can end in blindness.

Nonprescription contacts may offer extra peril. You may not know if they were made with the right materials in clean conditions.

That's why you should visit an eye care professional before you buy contact lenses. He or she will decide if contacts are right for you, give you a proper fitting and offer instructions for wear, care and follow-up exams.

Common sense with contacts

  • Wear only contact lenses that were prescribed by an eye care professional.

  • Always clean and disinfect lenses as you were taught.

  • Do not buy contact lenses from anyone who is not licensed to sell them.

  • Never share or swap contact lenses.

  • Have your eyes examined regularly according to your eye doctor's advice.