Eye Infection From Wearing Over-the-Counter Contact Lenses

November 1, 2006

A 17-year-old Haitian girl who was visiting Florida presented to the emergency department after she experienced pain and a change in vision in her left eye. Her right eye was asymptomatic. For the past 3 to 4 days, she had been wearing a pair of colored contact lenses she bought for fun at a discount store.

A 17-year-old Haitian girl who was visiting Florida presented to the emergency department after she experienced pain and a change in vision in her left eye. Her right eye was asymptomatic. For the past 3 to 4 days, she had been wearing a pair of colored contact lenses she bought for fun at a discount store.

The patient's vital signs were stable. A slit lamp examination revealed hypopyon in the left eye. An exudate was noted during extraocular muscle testing. The right eye was normal.

Elise Zahn, DO, of Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, Fla, treated the patient with 2 drops of ciprofloxacin ophthalmic solution in the left eye. The teenaged girl was also given tetanus vaccine and tetanus immunoglobulin prophylaxis and was emergently transferred for ophthalmology evaluation and follow-up. The infection subsequently resolved, and she returned to Haiti.

This patient was able to obtain noncorrective cosmetic lenses from a discount store, presumably without a prescription. Cosmetic contact lenses fall under the umbrella of medical devices regulated by the FDA. Over- the-counter sale of contact lenses to consumers without a prescription is illegal. It is possible that noncorrective cosmetic contact lenses are being sold illegally in the United States at flea markets, novelty shops, or other venues. This patient was advised that contact lenses must be obtained from an eye care specialist after a complete eye examination and refraction.