Contact Lens Dispensing Permit Program About the Profession - Contact Lenses

Do I need a prescription for cosmetic, colored contacts?

All types of contact lenses, both corrective and non-corrective (cosmetic and color contacts), must be dispensed under the authority of a prescription from the physician or optometrist who examined and fitted the contact lenses to the person’s eyes.  The use of contact lenses, both corrective and non-corrective, involves possible risks to the health of a person’s eyes.  These risks are due to the fact that contact lens wearers are covering living tissue with a layer of plastic. All types of contact lenses are medical devices which are sold and dispensed only by an individual or a business authorized by law to dispense contact lenses. 

Who is required to obtain a contact lens dispensing permit?

Opticians who dispense contact lenses and corporations and business entities that sell, deliver, or dispense contact lenses in Texas are required to obtain contact lens dispensing permits. This includes mail-order firms that are not based in Texas if they do business in Texas.  Employees of corporations and business entities that hold permits are not required to obtain a separate permit. Physicians, optometrists, therapeutic optometrists, and pharmacists are not required to obtain a permit. Employees who work under the direct supervision and control of an optometrist, a therapeutic optometrist, a physician, or a pharmacist are not required to obtain a permit.  A permit holder may not sell, deliver, or dispense contact lenses in a flea market.

Who can write prescriptions for contact lenses?

Licensed physicians, optometrists, and therapeutic optometrists.

How often should a person have an eye examination?

As a general rule, most people should have an eye examination every year by an ophthalmologist or optometrist to assure that their eyes are free from disease or other disorder and are functioning properly. After the examination is complete, consumers may request their prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses be provided to them so they may take it to any optician to be filled. A person may also purchase eyeglasses or contact lenses from the prescribing doctor.

Can an optician fill an expired prescription for contact lenses?

No, it is against the law to dispense contact lenses from an expired prescription. A person whose prescription is expired should contact his or her ophthalmologist or optometrist.

New FDA Warning

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning to consumers regarding colored contact lenses worn for Halloween. The FDA is cautioning consumers regarding the dangers of purchasing and wearing decorative contact lenses without appropriate involvement from an eye care professional.

Read the warning on the FDA website:

Link to FDA website

New Federal Law on Contact Lens Prescription Release

The Federal Trade Commission has several publications for providers and consumers at:

Click here to link to the "Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act" on the Library of Congress website.

DSHS, Other State Agencies Issue Warning About Colored and Patterned Cosmetic Contact Lenses

Prompted by reports of unauthorized sales of colored and patterned non-corrective contact lenses, better known as cosmetic contact lenses, several state agencies are issuing a warning about possible health risks associated with use of the lenses.

A joint alert from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, Texas Optometry Board, and the Texas Attorney General warns about wearing the lenses without medical supervision. Risks include bacterial infection, allergic reaction to the lens coating, insufficient oxygen to the cornea, abrasions and corneal ulcers. If not treated, these conditions can result in permanent eye damage or blindness.

All contact lenses are medical devices, which are sold and dispensed only by a legally authorized individual or business. All contact lenses must be dispensed by prescription from the physician or optometrist who examined and fitted the person.

Sharing or trading contact lenses, either corrective or cosmetic, also can result in the loss of an eye from viral or bacterial infections. Contact lenses are bathed in tears that may contain infectious or contagious agents.

The non-corrective cosmetic contact lenses, whose sales are often targeted to junior high and high school students, are worn to change the color or appearance of the eyes, rather than to correct vision. They also are sold through classified advertising in school newspapers and free community publications. An advertiser should publish his or her license or permit number in the ad. DSHS investigates cases to ensure that all contact lens dispensers are in compliance with the law.

For more information, the Notice to School Superintendents and Nursing Staff is available on the "Applications/Forms" web page.

The Texas Department of State Health Services works to ensure that all contact lens dispensers are in compliance with the law.  If you are aware of any person or firm who may be in violation of state law regarding the sale of contact lenses and you wish to file a complaint, please contact the DSHS Professional Licensing and Certification Unit Complaint Hotline at (800) 942-5540. 

Last updated March 28, 2014