Halloween Hazard: The Dangers of Cosmetic Contact Lenses

Halloween is a popular time for people to use colored contact lenses to enhance their costumes. From blood-red vampire eyes to glow-in-the-dark reptile lenses, costume contacts can certainly add a spooky, eye-popping touch. But colored contact lenses aren’t just a Halloween novelty.  In addition to correcting refractive error, many people wear cosmetic contact lenses to change the look of their eyes year-round. There are contact lenses available that can change, enhance or just brighten the current color of your eyes.

But few know the risks associated with these lenses.

Contact lenses are medical devices under the regulation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who oversees their safety and effectiveness.  Although cosmetic contact lenses may seem like a fashion accessory, ALL contact lenses require a proper fitting and prescription by an eye care professional. Retailers that sell contacts without a prescription are doing so illegally.  Never buy colored contact lenses from a retailer that does not require a valid prescription.

There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” contact lens and lenses that are not properly fit may cause sight threatening damage to your eyes.  Dangers of improperly fit contact lenses and practicing poor lens hygiene include inflammation, infection, scarring, corneal abrasions, blood vessel growth onto the cornea, decreased vision, and even blindness. These risks can be greatly minimized by receiving a proper contact lens fitting with an eye doctor including education on lens care, hygiene, and replacement.  So even if you have perfect vision, you still need to get an eye exam and a prescription from an eye care professional in order to wear any type of contact lens.
To safely wear cosmetic contact lenses:

• Get a comprehensive eye examination and contact lens fitting from an eye care professional with proper follow up care.

• Obtain a valid prescription which contains information including lens parameters and expiration date, even for lenses that are not correcting refractive error.

• Never buy contact lenses without a valid prescription.

• Follow the care instructions provided for cleaning, disinfecting, and replacing the lenses.

• Never share contact lenses.

• If any pain, discomfort, redness, discharge, or decreased vision is noted, it is important to seek immediate medical attentionfrom an optometrist or ophthalmologist.