Safety First

a cartoon medical kit

Your eyes are sensitive, and need special care…

Your eyes are amazing, complex machines. But unlike the machines built by humans, which can be repaired or replaced, your eyes have too many delicate, intricate parts for human beings to replicate with current technology. What does that mean? Simply, it means that once you break ‘em, that’s it. Your eyes can recover from many minor injuries, but some things can cause permanent damage. Scientists are making advances in the field of ocular health every day, but there is still a long way to go before eyes can be replaced.

For this reason, you have to be extra careful with your eyes. Contact lenses, cosmetic shells, and artificial eyes all come in contact with sensitive tissue of the eye. Improper wear and care can lead to infection, which can sometimes mean severe, even irreparable damage. Because of this potential risk, it is in your best interest to seek help from a registered contact lens practitioner, or other health professional, before you put anything in your eyes.

 

RCLPs

a tray of false eyes

Registered Contact Lens Practitioners…

Opticians who fit and dispense contact lenses and cosmetic shells have taken specialized training and undergone a rigorous certification examination. You can spot a Registered Contact Lens Practitioner (RCLP) by the special certificate displayed at their place of practice.

RCLPs measure the shape and size of the eye, select the type of contact lens material, and prepare work orders specifying the power and size of the lenses. In some cases, they may need to prepare a mould of an eye, which can be used to manufacture some of these specialized devices. This work requires considerable skill, care, and patience. But RCLPs have the training to take precise eye measurements, and make sure that the resulting device works properly.

 

Contact Lens Fitting

fingers fitting a contact lens into a woman's eye

Your RCLP will show you how it’s done…

Over the course of several visits, your RCLP will show you how to insert, remove and care for your contacts, cosmetic shells, or artificial eyes. Periodically, they will check how your contact lenses fit, to make sure that you are still comfortable and being careful.

Although some types of contact lenses do cause discomfort in the beginning, your RCLP will be able to assess whether what you are feeling is normal, or if it is the result of improper use. Corneal abrasions, infections, and other injuries are avoidable with the proper care and training. Your RCLP will educate you on the importance of proper lens care and storage, and the periodic checkups will ensure that if a problem arises, it can be addressed before it’s too late.

 

Decorative Contact Lenses

a woman in full face makeup, wearing decorative contact lenses

Decorative lenses can be a cool addition to a Halloween costume, but they still go in your eye…

In Canada, decorative or cosmetic contact lenses are considered class II medical devices. This is because just like corrective contact lenses, they have the potential to scratch and introduce infection into your eyes.

Health Canada requires that all decorative contact lenses for sale in Canada are manufactured by companies that hold a Medical Device License, and are distributed or imported by companies that hold a Medical Device Establishment License. So what does this mean for you?

Medical Device License…

A Medical Device License is issued only if the manufacturer complies with Health Canada’s requirements; this means that you can trust a licensed source to make their product with safe materials in safe environments. It is illegal to manufacture medical devices for sale in Canada without this license.

Medical Device Establishment License…

A Medical Device Establishment License is the next protective step. People or companies who import and/or distribute decorative contact lenses may only buy from manufacturers with Medical Device Licenses. Distributors and importers are responsible for making sure that the product is safe, and for submitting a report about any complaints.

Retailers…

Currently, a retailer who buys from a licensed importer or distributor can sell cosmetic contact lenses in their stores. The materials and infection control methods used in the production of these lenses have met Health Canada standards. Although anything that comes in contact with your eye should be restricted, Alberta has unclear legislation about decorative contact lenses.

However…

The legislation may change to account for the risks of buying cosmetic contact lenses outside a dispensary, but this may take time. Regardless, we recommend that when buying decorative contact lenses for the first time, you do so from a dispensary where you can receive proper training on using these devices; the same training you would get for prescription lenses. The risks associated with improper use and storage of prescription contacts are still present in decorative lenses. Therefore, scratches, infections, and severe damage are real possibilities if you have not been shown how to insert and care for your lenses properly.

The new Health Canada regulations on manufacturing and distribution will reduce the risks of damage from improperly made lenses. But these restrictions cannot prevent the injuries you could sustain if you try to use them without correct training.