Technology & Science

Lady Gaga lenses can damage eyes: experts

Optometrists say fans of the computer-enhanced large-eyeball look in a Lady Gaga video should not try to mimic the look by using so-called circle lenses.

Fans of the computer-enhanced large-eyeball look in Lady Gaga's Bad Romance video should not try to mimic the look at home, optometrists warned on Monday.

The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) issued a release warning that cosmetic lenses that give the wearer the same "doe-eyed" look Gaga has in the video can lead to complications that can be serious if people are not properly trained on how to use, clean and disinfect the lenses.

Some young fans of the pop singer have been copying the look, which is similar to that of Japanese anime characters, with the help of a type of contact lens popularized in Asia known as a circle lens.

Unlike normal contact lenses, circle lenses extend beyond the iris to cover part of the white of the eye.

The lenses are available as purely cosmetic eyewear or in corrective strengths and come in unusual colours such as purple and pink.

No prescription needed

Young girls have been ordering the lenses online on sites that import them from Asia, such as, which is based in Toronto.

In the U.S., it is illegal to sell corrective or cosmetic contact lenses without a prescription but that hasn't deterred young girls in that country from ordering them from sites based outside the U.S., a New York Times piece on circle lenses pointed out this month, even though it is still illegal for those sites to ship the lenses to the U.S.

In Canada, regulation varies by province. British Columbia recently changed its legislation to allow consumers to purchase glasses or contact lenses without a prescription or eye exam. The CAO opposed that change, which took effect May 1.

Cosmetic lenses can be sold by anyone in Canada, including at beauty salons, convenience stores or online.    

Cosmetic contact lenses are not classified as medical devices and no prescription is needed to buy them, Health Canada's website said. Manufacturers and importers must notify the department that they intend to sell the product, and are required to provide safety data.

If a lens has therapeutic properties such as optical correction, then only licensed eyecare professionals can prescribe, dispense or sell these lenses, outside B.C.

Optometrists say circle lenses can cause various problems, for example:

  • Some lens materials inhibit the eye from breathing properly.
  • Eye infections may result from poor, unhygienic handling of the lenses or a lack of storage, cleaning and disinfection.
  • Wearers sometimes share lenses with friends, which increases likelihood of infection.

Dr. Desmond Fonn, director of the Centre for Contact Lens Research at the University of Waterloo and a professor at the Ontario university's School of Optometry, advised people to consult an eyecare professional to ensure the lenses fit properly.

Lenses come into direct contact with the surface of the eye, which can easily be irritated, scratched or permanently damaged.

"Of utmost importance is that immediate professional help be sought if any ocular reaction occurs," Fonn said.

CAO is asking Health Canada to legislate a prescription requirement for dispensing all types of contact lenses in the country.