Ouch! Michigan Teen Partially Blinded By Flea Market Novelty Contact Lenses

A 17-year-old Michigan girl wishes she never wore the novelty contact lenses she bought at a flea market booth, after being left partially blinded in one eye when one of the contacts tore off a layer of her cornea, WXYZ (Detroit) is reporting.

Back in September, Leah Carpenter and other high school girls participated in a powder puff football game. Leah’s team chose to dress up as zombies for the game, and Leah, wanting to pack a little extra punch in her costume, wore novelty contact lenses intended to give her eyes a zombified look.

The next day, Leah’s mom, Dawn Carpenter, noticed something amiss with one of Dawn’s eyes.

“Her eye was really swollen and red and I asked her if she had pink eye or something.”

As the family would later find out from Leah’s eye doctor, however, one of the novelty contact lenses Leah wore had damaged part of cornea.

“I’m devastated. It happened in late September and we have been going to the opthamologist everyday.”

Novelty contact lenses come in a variety of styles — from zombie eyes and cats’ eyes to 8-balls and smiley faces, and everything in between. One such online vendor, You Know It, even offers cannabis leaves and various flags, among about a hundred other styles.

“Be the centre of attention with our incredible range of novelty contact lenses. These coloured contacts come in a huge choice of designs that make it easy to transform your look. Choose a funky design for your next fancy dress costume or just make a statement with some of our brightly coloured contacts.”

One of hundreds of styles of novelty contact lenses. [Image via Shutterstock/katalinks] One of hundreds of styles of novelty contact lenses. [Image via Shutterstock/katalinks]The problem, however, is that contact lenses are considered prescription medical devices, as far as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is concerned, and any vendor that sells contact lenses without a prescription is breaking the law. On its “Decorative Contact Lenses: Is Your Vision Worth It?” page, the FDA cautions customers not to buy novelty contact lenses from beauty shops, flea markets, street vendors, or any other seller that doesn’t ask for a prescription first.

“[Novelty contact lenses] are not ‘one size fits all.’ An eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) must measure each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how your eye responds to contact lens wear. A poor fit can cause serious eye damage, including scratches on the cornea, corneal infection… and blindness.”

The FDA does indicate that it’s possible — and generally safe — to buy novelty contacts from vendors that won’t sell them without a prescription.

“Get a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and an expiration date. Buy the lenses from a seller that requires you to provide a prescription, whether you go in person or shop online. Follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses, and visit your eye doctor for follow-up eye exams.”

One such vendor, Lens.com, offers not only regular prescription contact lenses but also novelty contacts — with a prescription. The website has halted sales of novelty contact lenses until after Halloween.

For Leah Carpenter, the decision to buy flea-market contacts is one she regrets.

“I missed out on homecoming. My school work is really behind.My vision is not going to be 100%. I have a long road. I wish I never did it, to be honest.”

Contacted by a WXYZ reporter, the vendor who sold Leah her novelty contacts at first denied selling novelty contact lenses, then insisted that it’s legal for him to sell them because he’s seen them in other stores, then hung up on the reporter when told that they’re illegal to sell without a prescription.

[Image via Shutterstock/scigelova]