Colored contact lenses could lead to big eye problems

Using cosmetic contacts to change the color of your eyes is something that can be done relatively safely if the contacts are prescribed by a doctor, but some drug stores and hair salons are putting them on the shelves for anyone to buy, and that does not come without serious risks.

Doctors say you could risk losing your sight entirely.

The desire to look like celebrities might be fueling the craze for colored contact lenses, but for Erica Barnes, her decision to change her look nearly cost her her vision.

Erica says, "I couldn't open my eyes, and every time I tried, it started hurting more."

The 14-year-old had only worn them for a day, but that was enough to damage her cornea. Her doctor says even after her infection is cured, she will have a scar and will likely need a corneal transplant.

Federal law says any contacts, even those for cosmetic purposes, can only be purchased with a valid prescription, but Erica says she picked hers up at a beauty store in Queens, N.Y. for twenty dollars.

"I saw the contacts, and I asked them how much. They said twenty. I said, ‘Am I able to buy them?’ They said yes, and they showed me all the colors, and I chose them…I was like, ‘Do I need cleaning?’ They was like, ‘No, you can use tap water.’"

Ophthalmologist Dr. Anne Steiner says, "All because of that contact lens that was not fit properly, she was never educated, she was rinsing it in water which predisposes you to infections."

Several hospitals across the country say they have had other teenage patients with the same issue as Erica.

Dr. Steiner says, "The population that is targeted here is a very vulnerable population of young teenage girls who will do a lot for cosmetic purposes, and it's absolutely illegal."

Erica’s mother, Trina Swain, says, "Anything to make 20 dollars? My child's sight is worth more than 20 dollars."

Erica’s parents have had to stop working to be at Erica’s bedside. They want to share her story to protect other teenagers from the same fate.

"Keep in mind; it doesn't come with cleaning instructions, no solutions. You just buy it like you're buying toothpaste. That's just ridiculous."

There are also numerous websites selling colored contacts without a prescription.

Make sure to talk to your kids about the dangers that come with them, or they could suffer permanent damage.

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