There was good news recently in the contact lens market with Alcon releasing their Air Optix Colors contact lenses. These excellent lenses involve a unique 3-in-1 colour technology that can enhance any eye colour for a wonderful cosmetic result. The lenses have an ultra-smooth surface that provides for consistent comfort and they are also are made up in a silicone hydrogel material which means that the lenses have a very high oxygen transmissibility.
The bad news is that many patients still treat tinted cosmetic contact lenses – especially those with zero power (no prescription) – as a fashion accessory, without realizing that these lenses – just like all other contact lenses – need to be fitted and prescribed by a recognized contact lens practitioner. In addition, appropriate contact lens maintenance and after-care is critical to ensure that no ocular complications occur as a result of contact lens wear.
The ‘ugly’ is what happens when these tinted cosmetic contact lenses are not prescribed or dispensed in the normal fashion by eye care professionals. There have been numerous cases reported in the ophthalmic literature over the last 15 years where serious ocular complications – such as microbial keratitis and corneal ulcers – have occurred due to these lenses being sold without a prescription or fitting from unlicensed vendors such as convenience stores, hair salons, flea markets and petrol stations (seriously!!). Unfortunately, in many of these cases there was significant and permanent vision loss due to the complications associated with the wearing of these lenses.
Tinted cosmetic contact lenses are an exciting part of contact lens practice and provide wonderful opportunities for many contact lens patients. However, it is critical that normal procedures are followed for the fitting and prescribing of these lenses. With proper fitting and appropriate instruction and follow-up by a contact lens practitioner, the risks associated with these lenses can be minimized and they can be subsequently worn safely.