Pop up shops are selling illegal contact lenses that may cause blindness. According to the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) there has been a noticeable growth in the use of illegal novelty ‘Halloween contact lenses’, items that can cause long term site loss that are being sold online and in pop up shops around the country.
“Novelty contact lenses have the potential to blind you” said Lynda McGivney-Nolan, Optometric Adviser to Association of Optometrists, Ireland. (AOI) “These lenses on sale in costume shops or online are not regulated or tested and are not quality assured, so you don’t know what you are putting into your eyes” said McGivney-Nolan.
“The biggest issues is that the dyes and paints used cause bacteria and micro-organisms to stick to the lens surface and normal cleaning products do not clean these off the lenses”.
CORU, the regulator for Health and Social Care Professionals in Ireland today are cracking down on the illegal distribution of the items. By law all contact lenses must be fitted by a registered optometrist. The lenses are regulated under the Health and Social Care profession act.
“Poorly fitted contact lenses can be too tight and can lead to oxygen deprivation of the cornea, and lack of knowledge of cleaning them can lead to bacterial infections” said Tracy Cullen, dispensing optician in Donal MacNally Opticians.
Experts in the AOI explained that anyone wearing contact lenses must wear lenses that are the correct fit, they must be taught how to put them in and identify what solution is most suitable for their eye.
Non-prescribed lenses pose the threat of someone catching their eye and not being able to get it out, which can lead to bacterial infections such as ‘Acanthamoeba Keratitis’, a disease in which amoebae invade the cornea of the eye. It may result in permanent visual impairment or blindness.
Despite the extensive research carried out by health care professionals, employees working in such pop up shops are either unaware of the dangers, or choose to ignore them. “They’re absolutely safe, we couldn’t sell them if they weren’t authorized” said Damian, an employee in a Halloween pop up shop in Dublin.
The public are advised not to purchase illegal novelty contact lenses due to the potential health risks they pose. “Contact lenses are a regulated medical product and may only be supplied and fitted by an Optometrist who has been professionally trained in the safe supply, insertion, removal, sterilisation and care of the lenses”.