Eye-Popping New Fashion Trend Could Carry Dangers, Docs Say

Contacts that give cartoonish look are illegal in U.S. but popular on web.

July 6, 2010, 7:25 AM

July 6, 2010 — -- If you thought that Lady Gaga's large doe-eyes in her "Bad Romance" video looked just a little well, too doelike, that's because they were. Her eyes were digitally altered to appear bigger.

But that hasn't stopped the exaggerated, cartoonish look from catching on among the fashion-conscious, creating a demand for special circle contact lenses that are sold illegally in the U.S. -- which doctors say could be dangerous for those who wear them.

Like any contact lens, prolonged wear can lead to infections that, although rare, can be serious, experts said. If the contacts don't fit properly -- too tight or too loose -- they can scratch the cornea, which can cause vision problems.

"There's literally that potential for someone to lose their vision within 24 hours and that's from infection," Dr. Assumpta Madu of the Montefiore Medical Center told "Good Morning America."

The colored contacts cover a portion of the whites of the eyes, making the pupils appear larger. Fashion websites are promoting the look, which Lady Gaga likely borrowed from the popular anime-style Japanese cartoons. Young girls are collecting different colors and changing them like earrings.

It's illegal to sell the non-FDA-approved lenses in the United States, but they're readily available for less than $20 on the Internet. In a YouTube video, makeup artist Michelle Phan shows step-by-step how to use the lenses. That video already has more than 9½ million hits.

Because they're illegal to sell, there's relatively little regulation to ensure the contacts are made safely.

Circle Lens Wearer: 'I've Had a Really Pleasant Experience'

Kristin Rowland, 22, has been wearing the lenses for a year but said she consulted with a doctor first.

"I like that cartoonish big-eye look, my friends were astounded," she said. "They thought they were the coolest thing in the world. It's the same risks as any regular contact lens. So I follow all the rules and I've had a really pleasant experience with them."

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