The Scary Eyes you Don’t Want for Halloween

Wearing these popular accessories can cause serious eye injuries and lead to permanent vision loss

As Halloween quickly approaches and people are planning their elaborate costumes, many may be tempted to use cosmetic contact lenses as a final touch.  However, Texas Ophthalmological Association ophthalmologists – medical doctors specializing in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions – are warning consumers that doing so without a prescription can lead to permanent vision loss.

Although the practice has been illegal since 2005, today cosmetic contact lenses are still sold in shops and via online retailers to customers who are unaware that wearing these devices can result in serious, potentially blinding eye injuries.  Retailers often market these products as cosmetics, fashion accessories or toys, when in fact they are medical devices that require prescriptions and FDA approval.

According to the Texas Ophthalmological Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the lenses, which are often not manufactured to meet federal health and safety standards, can cause injuries such as cuts and open sores in the protective layer of the iris and pupil (corneal abrasions and ulcers) and potentially blinding painful bacterial infections (keratitis). These injuries can require serious eye surgeries such as corneal transplants, and in some cases lead to permanent vision loss. One study found that wearing cosmetic contact lenses increased the keratitis risk by more than 16 times.

To safely wear decorative contact lenses this Halloween or any time of year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends following these guidelines:

  • Only buy decorative contact lenses from an eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist or a retailer that requires a prescription and sells FDA-approved products.
  • If you don’t already have a contact lens prescription, obtain a valid prescription and eye exam from an ophthalmologist or optometrist, a health care professional who provides primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment and management of vision changes
  • Even for those with perfect vision, an eye exam and prescription are mandatory in order to fit the right size contacts. Do not fall victim to false advertising claims and lenses labeled as “one size fits all” or “no need to see an eye specialist.”
  • Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the lenses. Contacts that are left in for too long or that are not properly cleaned and disinfected can significantly increase the risk of an eye infection.
  • Never share contact lenses with another person or wear expired lenses.
  • If you notice redness, swelling, excessive discharge, pain or discomfort from wearing contact lenses, remove the lenses and seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist. Eye infections like keratitis can quickly become serious and cause blindness if left untreated.

For more information on cosmetic contact lens safety, please visit www.geteyesmart.org