Colored cosmetic contact lenses: an unsafe trend in the younger generation

Cornea. 2012 Jul;31(7):777-9. doi: 10.1097/ICO.0b013e31823cbe9c.


Purpose: To identify the microbiological profile and evaluate the clinical course and outcomes in patients who developed severe infectious keratitis after colored cosmetic contact lens wear.

Methods: This case series includes 13 patients who developed severe infectious keratitis after colored cosmetic contact lens wear. A detailed history regarding contact lens availability and storage and handling techniques was taken. All patients underwent standard diagnostic microbiological evaluation followed by culture-guided topical antimicrobial therapy.

Results: Of 13 patients, 8 were male and 5 were female, with mean age at presentation of 19 ± 3.8 years. All patients were emmetropic, and lenses were worn solely for cosmetic purposes. Seven lenses were dispensed without prescription or fitting from an unlicensed optical shop, 5 patients had shared lenses with friends/relatives, and 1 patient obtained the lens from the garbage. None of the patients followed the recommended contact lens handling and storage techniques. The causative microorganisms included Pseudomonas aeruginosa (54%), Staphylococcus aureus (25%), and Staphylococcus epidermidis (17%), with 1 case of viral keratitis. In 62% of cases, ulcer size was ≥5 × 5 mm and posttreatment corrected visual acuity was 6/24 or less. All patients responded well to topical antimicrobials, and none required surgical intervention.

Conclusions: Over-the-counter use of decorative lenses as a cosmetic aid is rapidly increasing. Easy and unmonitored availability of these cosmetic lenses is followed by severe sight-threatening complications in young emmetropic individuals.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Color
  • Contact Lenses, Hydrophilic / adverse effects*
  • Corneal Ulcer / microbiology*
  • Corneal Ulcer / therapy
  • Corneal Ulcer / virology*
  • Cosmetics / adverse effects*
  • Emmetropia / physiology
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / etiology*
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / therapy
  • Eye Infections, Viral / etiology*
  • Eye Infections, Viral / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ophthalmologic Surgical Procedures
  • Pseudomonas Infections / etiology
  • Pseudomonas Infections / therapy
  • Staphylococcal Infections / etiology
  • Staphylococcal Infections / therapy
  • Visual Acuity
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antiviral Agents
  • Cosmetics