Favorite

Cosmetic lenses do damage 

A Hot Springs woman could lose an eye.

Dr. Robert Berry, a corneal specialist at Baptist Eye Center, is fighting to save the eye of a 33-year-old woman who purchased green tinted, non-prescription contact lenses from a Hot Springs convenience store and contracted a severe corneal infection. If the infection spreads, her entire eye might have to be removed. In the best-case scenario, Berry will be able to clear up the infection with medication. But even then, the woman's cornea will be irreversibly scarred, and a corneal transplant will be necessary to restore her vision.

The patient, who doesn't want to be identified by name and declined through her lawyer to be interviewed, purchased the lenses in late March but didn't take them out of their packaging and try them out until May 5. It was her first time to wear cosmetic contacts, so she didn't know that she should take them out and clean them at night. Three days later, she went to the emergency room with excruciating light sensitivity in one eye.

She was sent to a Hot Springs ophthalmologist, who immediately got her an appointment with Berry. The woman had developed a rare but serious corneal infection so painful that at one point she begged a doctor just to take her eye out. She has missed three weeks of her job managing a fast-food restaurant, and she spends her days wearing sunglasses in dark rooms. If someone opens a door, letting in a crack of light, she groans and drapes a coat over her head. She's facing mounting medical bills and, according to Berry, a one- to six-month wait for a donor cornea. Her lawyer, James Street, is trying to trace the lenses to a manufacturer and distributor, to figure out if legal action is appropriate. This is the first time he's handled a case related to contact lenses.

Non-prescriptive over-the-counter lenses, some under the brand name Freshlook, are sold at gas stations, flea markets, convenience stores, nail salons, wig shops or costume suppliers and other retail outlets, to people wishing to change their eye color. But selling over-the-counter lenses is illegal, and a subject of growing concern to the medical community, said optometrist Dale Morris of Forrest City, the president of the Arkansas State Board of Optometry.

For several years, optometrists and ophthalmologists have been seeing patients with infections due to illegal contacts. "But recently, in the past six months or so, it's become a crisis situation," Morris said. "Lenses come in different shapes. We take measurements of the eye to determine the curvature, so the lens will sit on the eye comfortably. If the lens is too tight, it causes a decrease in oxygen to the cornea, which causes it to lose transparency."

OTC lenses may contain carcinogens or other toxins, and buyers may clean them improperly or even share them with friends. Arkansas eye doctors have treated corneal abrasions, ulcers, trauma and infection resulting from the lenses. In Morris' experience, the buyers are often young women or teen-agers who want to dress up for an event, such as Halloween or prom, or who simply want to change their eye color.

"All contacts are a risk," Berry said. "We see problems even with patients who are prescribed lenses. The doctor looks at you, talks to you and determines if you're a good candidate, but sometimes there are still complications. Of course, the risk is far greater if you just buy contacts from a gas station. No one knows whether those contacts were made by a reputable manufacturer, if the package was sterile, if they were worn, returned, repackaged and resold ..."

In 2005 Congress passed an amendment to the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act regulating the sale of contact lenses as medical devices. Sen. John Boozman (then a U.S. representative), an optometrist, led a bipartisan charge to make illegal the purchase of any contact lenses without a prescription. Arkansas law further specifies that only optometrists and ophthalmologists are allowed to sell the lenses. At a recent meeting, the Arkansas Board of Optometry urged eye doctors to question their patients, in an attempt to compile a list of illegal contact vendors. There are no statistics to gauge the extent of the problem, but at his Forrest City practice, Morris has seen four cases involving these lenses so far in 2012.

Favorite

Speaking of...

  • 'Big Shootout' film explores more than football

    October 19, 2013
    For those of us reared in Razorback Country from the 1970s onward, there's a pervading belief from prior generations that we newbies just don't "get" the magnitude of what happened on December 6, 1969. /more/
  • In memory of James Street

    October 3, 2013
    I was 11 years old, and watching on the TV in our house on Cleveland Street, in Little Rock, when James Street achieved immortality. It was Dec. 6, 1969, and Arkansans of a certain age, like me, still feel the pain of the dagger that Street, the elusive Texas quarterback, shoved in our guts that day. /more/
  • In memory of James Street, hero of Arkansas football's worst defeat

    September 30, 2013
    James Street was found dead, of an apparent heart attack, in his house in Austin, Texas, this morning. He was 65, according to the calendar, but for fans of both the Razorbacks and the Longhorns, he will always be 21, and he’ll always be dropping back on fourth-and-three, deep in the fourth quarter, to fling a prayer of a pass in the greatest college football game ever played. /more/
  • Thursday To-Do: 'The Big Shootout'

    September 4, 2013
    "The Big Shootout" will screen Thursday at the Clinton Presidential Center. /more/
  • More »

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

More by Cheree Franco

Readers also liked…

  • Arkansas's new anti-gay law forgets history

    It turns back the clock on civil rights.
    • Feb 26, 2015
  • A child left unprotected

    State Rep. Justin Harris and his wife adopted a young girl through the state Department of Human Services. How did she, six months later, end up in the care of a man who sexually abused her?
    • Mar 5, 2015
  • The hart

    It is hard for a straight person, The Observer included, to imagine what it would be like to be born gay — to be shipwrecked here on this space-going clod, where nearly every textbook, novel, film and television show, nearly every blaring screen or billboard or magazine ad, reinforces the idea that "normal" means "heterosexual."
    • Feb 26, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Arkansas Reporter

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  

Most Viewed

  • Let's talk about stamina

    Also, an arrest and an apology, squeezing mental health care, hate winning in Bentonville and more.
  • Rising arches

    The Broadway Bridge was closed to traffic on Wednesday to allow its demolition and replacement by a new bridge. The so-called "basket-handle arches" being assembled in the Arkansas River are part of the new span, which is projected to be complete by March 2017.
  • Democrats' last stand in NE Arkansas

    Nate Looney vs. Rep. Brandt Smith for District 58.
  • Thrifty

    The Observer is a known and incorrigible haunter of thrift stores. Some weekends, with Spouse in tow, we'll make the rounds of every Goodwill store in three counties, driving them on a carefully pre-planned circuit so we can stop midway and get coffee at our favorite little place.
  • John Walker and the police

    In my experience John Walker has always been the perfect gentleman that you do not want to mess with. He's a bulldog, and will not let a real or perceived wrong go unpunished.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Democrats' last stand in NE Arkansas

    • I grew up in Jonesboro and it was pretty conservative, but all the elected offices…

    • on September 28, 2016
  • Re: Democrats' last stand in NE Arkansas

    • Unfortunately, I've noticed a real abundance of stupid voters in NE Arkansas who seem to…

    • on September 28, 2016
  • Re: Feeling unwelcome

    • Why worry? If you mind your business, work, follow the law you treat people nice…

    • on September 28, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation