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Teens Turning a Blind Eye to Vanity-Lens Woe

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Jeepers, creepers, where'd ya get that pinkeye?

Eye problems are on the rise among teenagers and twentysomethings who have joined the trend of wearing and sharing brightly colored contact lenses usually bought on the Internet and mostly for vanity purposes rather than eyesight improvement.

The cosmetic lenses come in all colors and some have designs ranging from American flags to zebra stripes.

But problems arise when users put them in and take them out without proper concern for cleanliness, leave them in overnight, and swap them among friends, experts say.

While the result might be a relatively harmless case of conjunctivitis, theres also a danger of getting herpes, hepatitis or even HIV, doctors warn.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, potential problems from nonprescribed lenses include bacterial infections, corneal abrasions, corneal ulcers and allergic reactions, all of which can lead to blindness.

Tears, which permeate lenses, are known to transmit any number of serious diseases, said Dr. Jay Wisnicki, chairman of ophthalmology at Beth Israel Medical Center.

Eye doctors say that colored lenses are fine if prescribed by an expert and used as directed.

But The Post found cosmetic contacts are widely available on the Internet, at salons and bodegas in the city and even some gas stations, without a prescription.

Depending on the quality, prices can range from $40 to $100. Optometrists charge up to $200 for prescription contacts.

Dr. Jonathan Primack, a cornea specialist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, said he recently treated a man in his early 20s who bought colored lenses over the counter at a store in Queens and wore them to bed.

He developed a corneal ulcer and his perfect vision was left blurred in one eye.

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