I’ll be the first to admit that I lead a bit of a sheltered life. I work, take care of my family, do a lot of research into things that fascinate me, workout and spend too much time online. It never occurred to me to buy my contact lenses anywhere other than the office where I work. It would never cross my mind to buy contacts- no matter how cool they seem- from a gas station, tattoo parlor or flea market. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that’s actually a thing- you can buy unregulated contacts from all sorts of places and, according to the FDA’s Forensic Chemistry Center, wearing something like that is probably a really bad idea.
You see, when you come into the office and get fitted for lenses, all of them come from highly regulated companies that meet all sorts of FDA guidelines for medical devices. You may not realize that contacts are medical devices but they are- they are in direct contact (thus the name) with the surface of your eye and all sorts of bacterial nasties can get in there if the lens isn’t properly sterilized or clean. Infections that can cause a lot of pain and even blindness. They may be tiny, thin little pieces of plastic, but if they aren’t cared for properly, bad things can happen. Which leads us back to unregulated contacts.
In a recent report, the FDA looked at over 300 individual counterfeit contact lenses obtained without prescription from a variety of suppliers. Over 60% of the counterfeit lenses were infected with something nasty- things like Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Bacillus cereus; stuff you absolutely do not want in your eye.
Bottom line, its a good idea to know where your contact lenses come from and if they do come from a flea market or tattoo parlor… you should disinfect them appropriately before they ever get near your eye.
Read the great summary here at the American Optometric Association’s website: