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Should Teens get Colored Contacts

By Dr. Kristie

They’re advertised as a quick and easy way to change your eye color. Color contact lenses are widely available without a prescription and more teenagers are using them as a way to alter or enhance their natural eye color. Viewed as another cosmetic tool among teenagers, these lenses are growing in popularity. Should you let your teenager wear color contact lenses?

Surprisingly, there’s little regulation of the sale of color contact lenses. These lenses can be purchased without a prescription or eye exam from some online sites since they’re considered to be cosmetic rather than medical devices, although this has been discouraged by the FDA.

At some sites, you can not only buy single color contact lenses, but also multi-colored ones as well as ones with designs.

These hold a certain appeal for teenagers who want to express their individuality. These lenses appear to be growing rapidly in popularity among teens and twenty-something adults.

The problem with a teen wearing color contact lenses, particularly ones that aren’t provided by a reputable optometrist is the risk of developing a serious eye infection. Lenses bought online or from other non-medical sources may be ill-fitting which can result in serious eye damage if worn on a consistent basis.

There’s also the danger of developing a serious eye infection which could lead to scarring of the cornea and blindness.

Even prescription contact lenses reduce the flow of oxygen to the cornea of the eye which increases the risk of bacterial infection. This risk is magnified when lenses are bought from disreputable sites that don’t require a prescription or an eye exam.

The only real situation where it might be acceptable from a health standpoint that a teen wear color contact lenses is if they require vision correction and need to wear glasses or contacts anyway.

In this case, they would be seen by an eye care professional and have their color contacts professionally fitted to meet the requirements of their eyes. They would also be instructed on how to wear them to avoid the risk of infection.

Even in cases where contact lenses are professionally fitted and precautions are taken to reduce the risk of infection, the possibility of an eye infection still exists.  For this reason, glasses might be a better option for a teenager who’s not yet mature enough to perform daily eye and contact lens cleanings.                                

The bottom line? If your teenager wants to wear color contact lenses, educate them about the dangers of potentially losing their eye sight by wearing contact lenses purchased online. If they need prescription eye correction, remind them that fashionable eyeglasses can look pretty cool and won’t pose a threat to their vision. 


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