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American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Efforts to Warn Consumers of the Dangers of Non-Prescription Contacts Gains National Recognition

04/23/2013   08:30:00 AM

"Want Scary Eyes?" Campaign Receives Prestigious Gold-Level Bulldog Reporter Award

SAN FRANCISCOAs the use of dangerous, non-prescription decorative contact lenses continues to increase in popularity, the American Academy of Ophthalmology's campaign to caution consumers of the health risks associated with these illegal devices has been recognized by leading media relations trade publication Bulldog Reporter with the Gold-Level Bulldog Award for the Best Not-for-Profit/Association/Government Campaign.  The Bulldog Awards honor the best media relations campaigns in the industry as judged by journalists, bloggers and public relations critics. 

Despite a 2005 federal law that classifies all contact lenses as medical devices and restricts their distribution to licensed eye care professionals, decorative contacts remain widely available on the Internet and in stores. As a result, consumers – particularly teens and young adults – continue to sustain serious, sight-stealing eye injuries and infections due to improper fit and care of these illicit products. To raise awareness of these risks, the Academy's public relations team developed and executed a Halloween-themed campaign called, "Want Scary Eyes? The Dangers of Decorative Contact Lenses."  

Launched in 2011, the campaign featured the story of Laura Butler, who developed a severe eye infection, a scar on her cornea and damaged vision after wearing over-the-counter contact lenses for just 10 hours. It also included an audio news release and low-cost 30- and 90-second viral videos that were developed in-house. The Academy's public relations team used traditional media relations and online tactics to spread its eye safety messages. These efforts resulted in more than 1,500 news stories including top-tier coverage in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Daily Mail, and ABC News Now. Media placements and online advertisements generated more than 20,000 views of the viral videos. In total, the campaign generated 315 million media impressions and increased visitors to the Academy's public awareness website, GetEyeSmart.org, by 54 percent.  

"The goal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology's 32,000 medical doctors and surgeons is to arm parents and teens with information about these hazardous products and prevent unsuspecting buyers from potentially enduring irreversible vision loss," said Renaldo Juanso, vice president for communications and marketing at the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "We are honored to be recognized for these efforts, and we hope the Bulldog Award will further amplify our message to help protect more consumers from the dangers of illegal contact lenses."  

The Academy continues its work to raise awareness that all contact lenses require a prescription and proper fitting by an eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist – a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye conditions. Products that claim "one size fits all" or "no need to see an eye specialist" can mislead consumers and may be on the market illegally. 

The Academy recommends the following guidelines to safely wear decorative contact lenses:

  • Get an eye exam from an eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist.
  • Obtain a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements and expiration date.
  • Purchase the decorative contact lenses from a licensed eye care professional or an eye product retailer who asks for a prescription.
  • Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the lenses.
  • Never share contact lenses with another person.
  • Get follow up exams by your eye care provider.

A summary of the Academy's "Want Scary Eyes? The Dangers of Decorative Contact Lenses" campaign will be available in the Bulldog Media Relations Awards Hall of Fame magazine, which will be published on May 15, 2013. For more information on decorative contact lens safety or to learn more about the Academy's public awareness efforts, visit www.geteyesmart.org and www.aao.org/newsroom.

About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons — Eye M.D.s— with more than 32,000 members worldwide.  Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" – ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who has the education and training to treat it all: eye diseases, infections and injuries, and perform eye surgery. For more information, visit www.aao.org  The Academy's EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit www.geteyesmart.org or www.ojossanos.org  to learn more.

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