11 Call For Action Alert: Contact Lenses Being Sold Illegally

Some contact lenses are used to correct vision and others are used for fun to change the color of an eye, but no matter what type of contact customers are buying, they need to make sure they are getting them from the right place.

Dr. Reed Bro with the Eye Care Center of Colorado Springs has fitted hundreds of people for contact lenses.

"You need the involvement of a qualified eye care professional," said Dr. Bro.

That's something customers will not get if they pick up decorative contact lenses over the counter at beauty or clothing stores.

"Contact lenses are not one size fits all ... the risks are mainly corneal problems, corneal infections, conjunctivitis, corneal ulcer and corneal scarring," said Dr. Bro.

The Food and Drug Administration goes on to list decreased vision and blindness as symptoms they've recorded after the use of illegally obtained contact lenses.

11 News found several stores in Colorado Springs selling decorative contact lenses without requiring a prescription, including La Plaza Mexicana, Gen-X and AC Expo.

Federal investigators told 11 News what the shops are doing doesn't just pose a potential risk to their customer's eyesight, it's illegal.

The FDA regulates all types of contact lenses and says if a store is advertising them as cosmetics or selling the contact lenses without a prescription, that store is breaking the law.

11 News spoke to each of the owners of the stores where the contact lenses were found. They told us they weren't aware what they were doing was illegal.

When 11 News asked where they had gotten the contacts from, they all told us they got the contacts from an outside vendor but would not give us specific information about who those vendors are.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement told 11 News that some contact lenses that are sold illegally here are coming from overseas from places like China and have not been approved by the FDA.

A 2014 consumer survey by the American Optometric Association showed that 11 percent of consumers have worn decorative, non-corrective contact lenses. Of those consumers, the survey found 53 percent bought them illegally.

"It's a risk that I don't think you should take," said Dr. Bro.

To legally obtain decorative contacts, vision corrective or not, you must visit a licensed eye doctor and get a valid prescription for your specific eye shape. You also need to buy the lenses from a seller that requires you to provide that prescription.


The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are working together to seize illegal and harmful versions of correctable vision lenses and decorative or color contact lenses that are illegally imported and distributed throughout the United States. This is a photo of a corneal ulcer, caused by a counterfeit contact lens.
The Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are working together to seize illegal and harmful versions of correctable vision lenses and decorative or color contact lenses that are illegally imported and distributed throughout the United States. This is a photo of a damaged eys from a counterfeit contact len