Halloween is the one time of the year when consumers can transform themselves into ghosts, goblins, celebrities or superheroes. However, when choosing the perfect costume, it’s important to keep health and safety in mind. The Kentucky Optometric Association is warning consumers about the risks of wearing decorative, non-corrective contact lenses sold illegally without a prescription from an eye doctor.
“Decorative contacts are a concern all year long, but Halloween is a time when people use them most as a way to enhance costumes,” said Dr. Lisa Sanford Howard, an optometrist in Middlesboro. “Consumers who purchase lenses without a prescription or without consultation from an eye doctor put themselves at risk of serious bacterial infection, or even significant damage to the eye’s ability to function, with the potential for irreversible sight loss.”
Since 2005, federal law requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate decorative lenses as medical devices, similar to corrective lenses. However, decorative lenses continue to be illegally marketed and distributed directly to consumers through a variety of sources, including flea markets, the Internet, beauty salons and convenience stores. Consumers also report purchasing them at retail outlets, where they are sold as fashion accessories.
Risks associated with the improper use of decorative, or prescribed corrective contact lenses include conjunctivitis (pink eye), swelling, allergic reaction and corneal abrasion due to poor lens fit. Additional medical problems may result in a reduction of sight and other general eye and vision impairments.
Only a medical eye and vision evaluation from an eye doctor can determine whether or not patients are capable of wearing lenses without problems, and that the lenses fit properly, Howard said.
“Even though they carry no prescription and may be worn for short periods of time, decorative contact lenses have the same risks as corrective contact lenses,” Howard said. “Because of this, it’s important for consumers utilizing these lenses to familiarize themselves with the information available from an eye doctor to reduce the risk of infection.
The KOA offers the following recommendations for contact lens wearers:
• Wear contact lenses only if they are fitted and prescribed by an eye doctor.
• Do not purchase contact lenses from gas stations, video stores, record shops or any other vendor not authorized by law to dispense contact lenses.
• Never swim while wearing contact lenses. There is a risk of eye infection when contact lenses come into contact with bacteria in swimming pool water.
• Make sure contact lenses are properly cleaned and disinfected as instructed by your eye-care professional.
• Make sure you wash your hands before handling and cleaning your contact lenses.
• Never swap or share contact lenses with anyone.
• Never sleep while wearing contact lenses unless they are extended-wear lenses specifically designed for that purpose.