The Scary Thing About these Contact Lenses is not how the Cheerleaders look....

9:13 PM

Oregon cheerleaders sported custom school-themed contact lenses
for their game on Saturday via
Did anyone watch the Oregon/Washington football game last weekend and notice something a little odd with the cheerleaders?  In addition to the usually inspiring uniforms sported by the football team (I for one am a HUGE fan of the feathered shoulders that change colors from different angles), Oregon's cheerleaders went outside of the box to show school spirit by incorporating custom contact lenses into their game day attire.  The result?  A gimmick look that as an eye doctor I can only hope doesn't catch on.

Why do eye doctors hate color and halloween-theme contact lenses so much?  We aren't against having fun, but contact lenses are actually a really dangerous device in the wrong (or poorly trained) hands.  When you break down what a contact lens really is, you can see why-- a contact lens is a piece of plastic that lays over your cornea (which by the way only gets its oxygen straight from the atmosphere since if has no blood vessels of its own).  No surprise, that little plastic piece obstructs oxygen from getting to the eye, and can result in infection or severe scarring (and permanent vision loss) if the cornea suffocates too long.  But when you have decorative contact lenses, it is easy to think of them as a fashion accessory instead of medical device, and not take the care required to safely wear lenses seriously.  Let's be frank, Oregon athletics seems to have no shortage of money, so the cost of custom contact lenses, the doctor's fee to have them prescribed (you can't buy any contact lenses legally without a prescription from a doctor even if they have no correction and are just zero-powered!), and the training for the cheerleaders to properly care for them was probably an easy expense.   I am sure that Oregon took all the necessary precautions, and that there were no harmed eyes in the entire incident.  All in good fun.  What "scares" me is the example this sets. For most people, buying custom contact lenses is excessively expensive, and the temptation is to keep the lenses much longer than they are safe to wear.  Most color contact lenses on the market have a shelf-life of 2 weeks (Acuvue and Freshlook), and never more than 1 month (Focus Monthly Softcolor).  That means total lifespan, not number of wears.  I do worry that high schools may want to copy this trend, but without the financial backing, would be tempted to put students at unwarranted risks.  And even if other schools don't want to take on the legal ramifications and responsibility of fitting students with contact lenses, it does encourage Americans as a whole to treat contact lenses with a lowered level of concern.

I'll go ahead and spare anyone wanting to comment about me taking things too seriously-- no need to "call the contact lens police", just wishing that we would all treat our eyes carefully.  When I stop having to treat patients for bacterial ulcers and corneal abrasions from their contact lens wear, and I don't have to worry about that middle of the night phone call from someone at risk from blinding themselves permanently because they didn't treat their contact lenses seriously, then maybe cheerleaders wearing crazy contact lenses for "fun" will seem like a better idea.  Until then, let's all be careful. With Halloween around the corner, the temptation to wear contact lenses unsafely is at its highest, so let's review some simple rules of advice.

Don't eat unwrapped candy.  Don't poke something into your eye unless you know everything about it.

See, easy enough.

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