The sale of decorative contact lenses without a prescription is illegal in the state of Maryland under a new law recently signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

The bill gives the Board of Examiners in Optometry the authority to issue cease and desist orders, obtain injunctive relief and levy civil fines for any establishment illegally dispensing such lenses.

Decorative contact lenses may be tinted to change the color of one’s eye, or feature designs such as cat eyes or large “anime” eyes. Celebrities such as Lady Gaga have made wearing these lenses popular in recent years.

Because contact lenses are not “one-size-fits-all,” they can pose a serious threat to vision if not fit properly; corneal ulcers, scratches and bacterial infections have been linked to the improper use of decorative lenses.

While these conditions can often be treated with medications, severe cases may require a corneal transplant. Using such lenses without a prescription or proper care can lead to serious eye damage.

Any establishment that is found selling decorative lenses without first acquiring a valid and unexpired prescription from an authorized prescriber is in direct violation of both state and federal laws.

To report violations, residents can contact the Board of Examiners in Optometry at (410) 764-4710 or via email:

Senate Bill 587 can be read online at