Health

Michigan Teen Left Partially Blind In One Eye By Halloween Contact Lenses

| by Karin Sun
Colored Halloween Contact Lenses.Colored Halloween Contact Lenses.

A Michigan teenager suffered a serious eye injury from wearing inexpensive Halloween contact lenses she purchased from a local mall.

Leah Carpenter, 17, of St. Clair Shores, Michigan, dressed up as a zombie for a powder puff football game at her high school. As part of her costume, she wore colored contact lenses she bought from a booth at the Gibraltar Trade Center in nearby St. Clemens. 

Carpenter reportedly wore the lenses for about four hours during the event.

When she woke up the next day, she felt something was wrong with her right eye.

"Her eye was really swollen and red and I asked her if she had pink eye or something," the teen's mother, Dawn, told ABC 7 Action News.

Carpenter said the contact lens had ripped out a top layer of her cornea, causing partial blindness in her eye. Since the incident in late September, the teen has made numerous trips to the doctor and has missed school and extracurricular activities. She may also need eye surgery.

"I missed out on homecoming. My schoolwork is really behind," the Lakeview High School senior told ABC 7.

"My vision is not going to be 100 percent," she added. "I have a long road."

"It’s unbelievable to watch her suffer and the pain that she was in and there’s no way to help her,” her mother told the Detroit Free Press.

Carpenter said she bought the $26 pair of contact lenses from the store Body Jewelry and More, which has a vendor booth at the Gibraltar Trade Center. The store's website claims the business only sells contact lenses that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Homeland Security Investigators told ABC 7 that no one should be selling contact lenses except for licensed doctors and eye care centers.

"They are a medical device and they require a prescription," said Special Agent Lorin Alaine. "To buy or sell them without a prescription is illegal."

When ABC 7 contacted the vendor who reportedly sold the contacts to Carpenter, he denied selling them but said that the lenses were OK to sell because he had seen them in dollar stores.

He reportedly hung up on reporters after being told it was not legal for him to sell the lenses.

A representative for the Gibraltar Trade Center told ABC 7 that he did not know the contacts were being sold at the mall, but intends to investigate.

Federal officials believe most decorative lenses sold without a prescription, like the ones Carpenter bought, were purchased online from overseas vendors and shipped illegally in the mail to U.S. businesses.

These products "represent a serious, serious threat to consumers," Khaalid Walls, spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the Detroit Free Press.

The FDA warns that incorrectly sized contact lenses could cause damage to the cornea, pink eye and blindness, and advises consumers who wish to buy decorative lenses to go to an eye doctor to get their eyes measured and obtain a prescription for a specific type of lens.

Consumers should also avoid buying contacts from businesses that do not require a prescription, including convenience stores, salons, street vendors and online retailers, advises the FDA's website. 

This was not the first incidence in which a consumer has suffered a serious eye injury from wearing decorative contact lenses. In 2014, a 23-year-old British woman had to be hospitalized after she was nearly blinded by a pair of Halloween contacts purchased from a mall, the Mirror reported on Oct. 20.

Sources: ABC 7 Action News, The Detroit Free Press, Mirror, FDA / Photo credit: ABC 7 Action News