In an interview with Buzzfeed Life, 23 year old Julian Hamlin from Florence, South Carolina, depicted the horror he has endured after wearing cheap contacts he picked up from a department store.
He bought a pair of $15 color contact lenses in 2010, which he wore almost every day. Despite replacing them every month and cleaning them regularly, he woke with an eye infection in March, 2012. “It was so out the blue. … I just woke up and my eye felt weird, so I went to the doctor, but he thought it was pinkeye,” he said.
Just a few days later, he ended up in the hospital with a severe corneal ulcer on his left eye. He later developed glaucoma from increased eye pressure and over the past few years he’s had 15 surgeries, including seven corneal transplants, and $250,000 worth of hospital bills.
“My left eye is completely blurry; it’s been a big transition. I’ve had to miss so many days of work, and I can’t lift anything over 25 pounds because it increases the pressure in my eyes, so I’m limited in my jobs,” said Julian.
Thomas Steinemann, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve explained “there is no difference between corrective and costume lenses – they all need to be fitted to your eye by a qualified eye care professional who can write a prescription.”
Many cheap contacts are made over seas where dyes are used that are not FDA approved. Some of them can cause abrasions which can let bacteria or viruses in and often the quality is so low that the eye has no chance to "breathe."
Julian is planning his latest cornea transplant and hopes to get his glaucoma under control to allow it.
If you are using decorative lenses, make sure the retailer requires a prescription and that they are FDA approved. Be sure to wear your contacts responsibly, as the risk is very low if done right.