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DHMH Press Releases : Decorative-Contacts-Illegal-Unsafe

DHMH Reminds Marylanders Decorative Contacts Are Illegal, Unsafe
Governor Signs Legislation to Address Illegal Sales
Baltimore, MD (May 5, 2014) – The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the Board of Examiners in Optometry want to remind Marylanders, especially teens and young adults, about the dangers of using decorative contact lenses. These lenses are tinted to change eye color or feature designs, such as “cat eyes.” Although these lenses may be popular, they can cause serious eye problems and are illegal to purchase without a prescription.
If not fit properly, contact lenses can cause scratches, ulcers and bacterial infections of the cornea. Sometimes these problems can be treated with medications, but, if serious enough, may require a corneal transplant. Even after treatment or surgery, some people will experience a permanent loss of vision.
“Decorative contact lenses can pose a real threat to vision,” says Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, DHMH Secretary. “Everyone should be on the lookout for contact lenses sold without a prescription – and avoid them.”
As the Maryland Board of Examiners in Optometry commemorates and celebrates 100 years of its establishment to protect the public, Governor O’Malley has signed legislation today that gives the Board authority to issue cease and desist orders, obtain injunctive relief and levy civil fines for the illegal sale and dispensing of contact lenses.
“This new legislation gives the Maryland Board of Examiners in Optometry the ability to stop the illegal sales of contact lenses,” says Patricia G. Bennett, Executive Director, Board of Examiners in Optometry. “By stopping the sales at their source, we can protect Marylanders from permanent and serious eye damage.”
Any establishment that sells or dispenses contact lenses without first obtaining a valid and unexpired prescription from an authorized prescriber is in violation of federal and state laws. To report violations, consumers should contact the Board of Examiners in Optometry at 410-764-4710 or
To read Senate Bill 587, visit
To learn more about the Maryland Board of Examiners in Optometry, visit
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