By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
recently contacted the Dade County Sentinel with the news that the Trenton
Quick Mart, a convenience store on Highway 11 South near City Hall, was selling
nonprescription colored contact lenses, and asking whether this wasn’t a health
hazard to the consumer.
these no-strength lenses not to correct their vision but to change their iris
color or to add some other cosmetic enhancement to their eyes. But much has
been written recently about the lenses’ possible effects on eye health.
checked and ascertained that the Quick Mart was indeed the home of a colorful
display of “Twinkle Fashion Color Soft Contact Lenses.”
read the Twinkle display. “Morning Till Night: 50 Funky Desigs Available.”
contact lenses in a number of colors including blues, greens and yellows, and
“desigs” included spiderwebs, sunflowers, even soccer balls – funky indeed.
display said the lenses cost $17.99 or two for $29.99. The clerk behind the
counter, who declined to give his name – “I don’t want to lose my job” – said
the store had carried the lenses since around Halloween, when they in fact had
been the most popular with customers. “It’s not something we specialize in selling,”
a wholesaler who happened to be present when the Sentinel popped by, said he
sees the costume contact lenses everywhere he goes. Smith, he explained, makes
his living selling novelties to convenience stores – “They call me the Junk
Man” – and said though he doesn’t deal in the contact lenses himself, he’s
noticed them being sold throughout the region “for the past couple of years,
shouldn’t be, said Leon Graham, O.D.
lens, I think anywhere in the United States, legally has to be prescribed by a
doctor,” said Dr. Graham.
He said he’d
been told of other stores also selling the colored lenses but that it wasn’t
supposed to be legal. “It’s what happens
sometimes,” he said. “They’re not enforcing the law.”
Dr. Graham, who
has practiced in Trenton for 34 years, shares an office in the shopping center
beside CVS Drugs with fellow optometrist Denis McDonald, and he was kind enough
to spend a few minutes there on Thursday explaining to the Sentinel why
convenience stores should under no circumstances be allowed to sell contact
teaching them how to care for them,” said Dr. Graham. “They’re not teaching
them how to clean them, how to put them in, how to take them out, how long they
should be worn. All this is part of what we do as optometrists and
ophthalmologists and opticians, is educate them on how they should be worn.”
And for the
reader who thinks the optometrist is just defending his turf, or is wondering
what’s the worst that can happen to those who go for the “DIY” approach to
contact lenses, Dr. Graham makes no bones about it: Blindness.
“The number one
cause of corneal ulcers is abuse of contacts,” he said. “If you get one of
these and if you do not have it treated within 48 hours, it can eat a hole
through your eye and blind you.”
pseudomonas bacterial ulcer doesn’t happen very often, said Dr. Graham, but it
does happen. “It’s the most devastating, and you rarely ever see these except
where people abuse contacts,” he said. “That in two days can cause blindness,
He related the
story of a patient who had courted the pseudomonas bacteria by wearing his
contact lenses for 30 days straight without taking them out to wash them. The
man had ended up not ahead the money it would have cost for lens cleanser but
out the $1,000 his weekend in the hospital had cost over and above what
insurance paid – but at least his vision had been saved, and that’s not always
In the case of
over-the-counter contact lenses, the chance that purchasers will wear the
lenses incorrectly is much higher because no one is even telling them how to do
it right, said Dr. Graham.
said, there is really no such thing as nonprescription contact lenses, because
in optometry prescription is not just strength but curvature, in which eyes
vary wildly. The no-strength variety,
called “Plano,” still has a curvature, and that curvature doesn’t fit
“All of them
have to be prescription contacts in order to get the correct coverage, because
if a person’s eye is extremely steep or extremely flat, it won’t work,” said
come into his office for contact lenses not to correct vision but just to make
their brown eyes blue, said Dr. Graham. As for the soccer balls, he can order
anything he doesn’t have in stock.
“But we still
go through the same thing,” he said. “We make the measurements, teach them how
to care for them, tell them the potential problems they can have, and do at
least one recheck,” he said.
follow-up appointment, patients are checked for swelling or any vision problems
that might have arisen since the fitting, said Dr. Graham.
in case the optometrist’s message is not clear to you yet – maybe you need your
vision checked? – the Sentinel will reiterate for you that Dr. Graham advises
strongly against buying contact lenses at a convenience store.
“You don’t have
to get them from me,” he said. “Get them from some other doctor. Just don’t get them there.”