Lenses can be an eyesore

By Drum Digital
04 August 2010

From close up it is obvious there is something wrong with Loudeen Dyers’ left eye. There’s a white scar on the iris and the eye is a little squint.

The teenager will never have more than 60 per cent vision in his eyes and sees the world as if looking through a dirty window. But even that much is a blessing considering he was completely blind for months.

The 17-year-old from Retreat in Cape Town never dreamt a contact lens could cause so much damage. And the sad part is he didn’t need to wear them – like many other teenagers, he simply wanted to look cool. But now he has ended up paying a terrible price.

His father gave him the cash for the lenses for Christmas two years ago. “Lots of my friends wear coloured contact lenses and I also wanted lighter eyes,” he says.

He bought a pair of lightbrown lenses for R230 at Clearvision Optometrists in Wynberg, Cape Town.

“They said I should have my eyes tested first but I told them there was nothing wrong with my eyes. So they said I could go ahead and buy them.” He wore the lenses on and off for a month.

Then one day his eye began itching intensely. “Then it got red and started hurting. A doctor prescribed eyedrops but they didn’t help.”

When Loudeen finally went to a specialist he was told the cosmetic contact lenses had caused an infection so serious that his eye had been permanently damaged.

He spent two weeks in hospital. “By that time I couldn’t see with my left eye. I could only distinguish between light and dark.”

What Loudeen didn’t know at the time was that he should never have been sold the lenses. In terms of the law optometrists aren’t permitted to sell contact lenses without first giving the patient a thorough eye examination.

The regulation exists precisely to protect people such as Loudeen. It’s because he wasn’t shown how to clean the lenses and wear them correctly that he will never see properly again.

MOST shocking of all is how easy it is to buy cosmetic contact lenses. It took five minutes for Cape Town student Thembi Nkosi (21)* to buy cosmetic lenses at the same Clearvision branch in Wynberg – which she did without seeing an optometrist.

She had last worn contacts years ago, she told the sales assistant. “I don’t need an eye test. Will you sell them to me just like that?” she asked.

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