Halloween is almost here, and the desire to take your costume to the next level can sometimes involve decorative contact lenses. Whether you’re dressing up as a zombie, a vampire or a cat this year, we want to remind everyone that there is a risk that comes with purchasing and wearing decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription and a proper exam from your eye doctor.
In a recent press release from the American Optometric Association, Glenda Secor, O.D., chair of the AOA's Contact Lens and Cornea Section stated: "Even though these are non-corrective lenses, they still pose the same potential health and safety risks as other contact lenses. When purchased over-the-counter, decorative contact lenses can put people at risk for bacterial infections, allergic reactions, or even significant damage to the eye's ability to function, with the potential for irreversible sight loss. Sadly, numerous cases of this have been documented."
Some quick safety tips:
- To buy these kind of contacts, you need a prescription from an eye care professional — even if they're just for looks and aren't correcting your vision.
- As with other contact lenses, make sure you clean Halloween contacts properly and store them in a clean case. Ask us for help if you need it!
- Never, ever, share your contact lenses with anyone. This can lead to serious eye problems.
- Buy your special-effect contact lenses from an authorized source. Know that retailers who sell Halloween contacts but don't require an Rx are selling them illegally.
Watch this video from the FDA on improper use of decorative contact lenses:
How do special-effect contacts work?
Special-effect contact lenses have an opaque (non-transparent) tint to completely mask your natural eye color and are available in a wide variety of dramatic colors and designs. The center of the lens, which lies over your pupil, is clear so you can see.
Most novelty or costume contact lenses cover just the colored portion of your eye (iris), but special-effect scleral lenses, like all-black, red, yellow or white contacts, cover both the iris and the "white" (sclera) of your eyes to create a truly haunting look.Do you need a prescription?
Do you need a prescription?
Yes — even novelty contact lenses are considered medical devices and can’t be purchased legally in the United States without a prescription. See us for a contact lens exam to have them properly fitted and prescribed, even if you have perfect eyesight and don't need vision correction. All contact lenses, even cosmetic ones, must be fitted to the person wearing them. A poor lens fit can lead to infection, corneal ulcer, decreased vision and even blindness.
According to an article by All About Vision, in October 2016, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced that ICE, the FDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) combined efforts to make several hundred seizures totaling around 100,000 pairs of counterfeit, illegal and unapproved contact lenses.
Testing of confiscated illegal lenses revealed many had high levels of bacteria that could cause significant eye infections. Also, the coloring of some decorative contact lenses were made of lead-based materials that could leach directly into the eye.
The agency urged consumers that anyone interested in wearing any type of contact lenses should visit an eye doctor, obtain a prescription and purchase them from a licensed provider.
"A valid prescription helps ensure consumers get contact lenses that are determined to be safe and effective by the FDA. Without it, people can risk serious eye injuries or loss of eyesight for one night of fun," said George M. Karavetsos, Director, FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations in the ICE press release.
Where can you get your safe lenses?
By law, your eye doctor has to give you a copy of your contact lens prescription if you request it, which means you have the option of buying contact lenses from any eye care professional, optical chain and legitimate online retailer.
To make sure you’ll have a safe wearing experience, buy your special-effect contact lenses from an authorized source. Never buy them at any store that doesn't ask you for a valid contact lens prescription, like a flea market, street vendor, beauty salon, or Halloween store.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.