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Beware Decorative Contact Lenses for Halloween

SUMMARY: Know the risks you may be taking with your vision when using non-prescription decorative contact lenses; your eyes will thank you.
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Halloween is our biggest excuse to play dress-up and be as silly, horrifying, and over-the-top as we want. While some don pre-made, out of the package costumes, others carefully craft their garments, and take accessories very seriously. From bullet wounds and zombie makeup to artfully coifed locks and colored contact lenses, the devil is in the details for some.

But just like you need to be vigilant about using non-toxic body paint, you should also beware of non-prescription decorative or colored contact lenses. These lenses can transform your eyes into that of a cat, a werewolf, or a vampire, or make your brown eyes blue. But these lenses can do major harm if not fitted and used properly, even for a few short hours.

While decorative and colored contact lenses are primarily non-corrective, meaning that they do not help your vision, they are still considered medical devices by the FDA. They are not, as some might advertise, a “cosmetic,” which can freely be sold in stores or over the internet.

Decorative contact lenses must be fitted and prescribed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. They are not, as the FDA describes them, “one size fits all.” For someone not used to wearing contacts (and caring for them properly), buying a pair that are a poor fit can cause eye damage, some of which could be long-lasting or permanent. Damage can include, scratches to the cornea, corneal infection, conjunctivitis, decreased vision, and even blindness.

In addition, there are care procedures for these decorative lenses, just as there are for regular ones. Cleaning and disinfecting are chief among them, but also making sure they are removed daily is of utmost concern. Late-night Halloween parties mean you may roll into bed without removing the lenses, and you could wake up with them adhered to your eyeball and difficult to remove without causing harm.

“The problem isn’t with the decorative contacts themselves,” says Bernard Lepri, O.D., M.S., M.Ed., an optometrist at FDA.  “It’s the way people use them improperly—without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care.”

 

 

The FDA has some simple rules to help you make wise choices about decorative contact lessons, which will reduce the chance that you may do harm to your vision this Halloween (with more than alcohol).

Where NOT to Buy Contact Lenses

FDA is aware that many places illegally sell decorative contact lenses to consumers without valid prescriptions for as little as $20. You should never buy lenses from:

  • street vendors
  • salons or beauty supply stores
  • boutiques
  • flea markets
  • novelty stores
  • Halloween stores
  • record or video stores
  • convenience stores
  • beach shops
  • Internet (unless the site requires a prescription). These are not authorized distributors of contact lenses, which are prescription devices by federal law.

How to Buy Decorative Contact Lenses Safely

  • Get an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist), even if you feel your vision is perfect.
  • Get a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and an expiration date. But don’t expect your eye doctor to prescribe anime, or circle, lenses. These bigger-than-normal lenses that give the wearer a wide-eyed, doll-like look have not been approved by FDA.
  • Whether you go in person or shop online, buy the lenses from a seller that requires you to provide a prescription. 
  • Follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses, and visit your eye doctor for follow-up eye exams.
  • See your eye doctor right away if you have signs of possible eye infection

Have a safe and happy Halloween from all of us at HealthNews

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