Lady Gaga's Circle Contact Lenses Are Growing Health Concern
Celebrities have long had the ability to spark new fashion trends, but the latest from Lady Gaga may have health consequences. In her “Bad Romance” video, the singer appears to have wider-than-normal eyes that are being copied by teens and young women across the country using special contact lenses called “circle lenses.”
Circle lenses are imported from Asia and sometimes come in strange colors such as violet and pink. They make the eyes appear larger and “doll-like” because they not only cover the iris as normal contact lenses do, but also part of the whites of the eyes. The look is characteristic of Japanese anime, and is “mainstream” in Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.
“In the past year, there’s been a sharp increase in interest here in the U.S.,” said Joyce Kim, the 31-year-old founder of Soompi.com, an Asian pop fan site with a forum devoted to circle lenses. “Once early adopters have adequately posted about it, discussed it and reviewed them, it’s now available to everyone.”
Contact lenses in the United States are illegal for sale without a prescription, but the new circle lenses are available online for $20 to $30 a pair. Melody Vue, a 16-year-old in Morganton NC who was interviewed by the NY Times, owns 22 pairs and wears them regularly. She said her friends do also, especially for pictures.
Circle lens websites do not verify proof of prescription, and customers can freely choose strength as well as color during purchase. The lenses are also not undergone quality or safety checks as other contact lens are required to have.
Karen Riley, spokeswoman for the FDA, said “Consumers risk significant eye injuries, even blindness, when they buy contact lenses without a valid prescription or help from an eye professional.”
More than 30 million Americans use contact lenses, according to the Contact Lens Council. Because they are worn directly on the eye, they can lead to eye infections and corneal ulcers. Poorly-fitting contact lenses can scratch the cornea or deprive the eye of oxygen, causing serious vision problems and even blindness.
For those wishing to wear decorative contacts, also called plano contacts, the FDA offers following advice to minimize risk:
o Get an eye exam from a licensed eye care professional, even if you feel your vision is perfect.
o Get a valid prescription that includes the brand and lens dimensions.
o Buy the lenses from an eye care professional or from a vendor who requires that you provide prescription information for the lenses.
o Follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses, and visit your eye care professional for follow-up eye exams.