Dangers of cosmetic contact lenses

October 11, 2011 7:09:06 AM PDT
Cosmetic lenses can add a cool effect to your Halloween costume, but they can also cause permanent damage if you're not careful.

"I was thinking ok, I'm just going to buy the lenses for my costume and now apparently I can't," said Stefania Marchesotti, a customer.

With names like fire, flower and dark elf, it's easy to be hypnotized by these eye popping contact lenses which can cost nearly $500.

But Stefania wasn't able to buy them this time, because of what she didn't have.

You see, according to the FDA, it's against the law to sell cosmetic lenses, also called plano or zero-powered lenses, without a valid prescription or note from an eye doctor.

At Abracadabra, Kodi keeps them under lock and key.

"There are not a lot of people who come in here and understand the policy, it is a very hard policy to go by but we go by it very strictly," said Kodi Hadrick, of Abracadabra.

That's because, if not used properly, experts say the lenses can do much more harm than good.

"The infections we sometimes see with them are devastating, can cause permanent scarring, can cause blindness and sometimes require corneal transplants," said Dr. Irene Cherfas, an ophthalmologist with Maimonides.

Eyewitness News was able to buy three pairs at another shop without a note but had to prove that the purchaser was 18 and sign some papers, clearly spelling out the do's and don'ts of using the product.

All of this has Robert Pinzon seeing red.

"We used to have that cabinet was packed to the max and now only have a few because they're expensive so it's an expense to carry a huge inventory just to sell a few for Halloween, it doesn't pay," said Robert Pinzon, of Abracadabra.

But is this law really effective? People are still buying these lenses, Bob says from sidewalk vendors and on the internet for as little as 5 and 10 dollars, no questions asked.

To avoid problems, get a full eye exam before and after buying these lenses.

Wash your hands while handling them, take them out at bedtime and do not share them with friends.

As for Stefania, she hopes to get the green light to use the lenses.

"I'm going to come back, let's see what the doctor says," Marchesotti said.