The Real Dangers of Costume Contact Lenses

eye health, contact lenses, Halloween, infection, eye safetyWe’ve all seen people who go the extra mile for their Halloween costumes. They may wear an elaborate getup that looks impossible to move around in, a skimpy mismatch for fall temperatures, or even a pair of accessories that sit directly on their eyeballs. Also known as decorative, cosmetic, colored, or costume contact lenses, novelty contacts can dramatically change the appearance of a person’s eyes. They can make the eyes look solid black, appear to be alarmingly bloodshot, or even resemble the eyes of a cat. They can be impressive and appropriately creepy for a Halloween costume, but store-bought colored contact lenses can be extremely dangerous to your eye health.

Colored contact lenses may seem like fun, but your vision is nothing to mess around with. These accessories should only be worn with a prescription from a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. In fact, although consumers can purchase them online (and perhaps at some unscrupulous brick-and-mortar stores), it’s illegal to sell nonprescription contact lenses in the United States. This is because contact lenses are, first and foremost, medical devices that come into physical contact with the user’s eyes. While the eyes are incredibly resilient organs in many ways, they can also be quite sensitive and susceptible to damage and infection.

Contact lenses need to fit their wearer’s eyes almost exactly and be free of defects to be safe. Otherwise, they can scratch or cut the eyeball, leaving you vulnerable to dangerous infections. Furthermore, the paint used in colored contact lenses can limit the amount of oxygen making it to your eye, and this can lead to a number of serious problems with the cornea. A serious corneal abrasion, corneal ulcer, or ocular bacterial infection such as keratitis can require eye surgery to correct or even lead to permanent blindness.

Contact lenses of any kind need to be properly applied, worn, and cared for. Many people who wear prescription contacts do not practice safe and healthy contact-lens care, and many people who wear colored contacts aren’t even aware of how to properly care for them. Even when the wearer is on his or her best behavior, infections and other eye-health problems can potentially occur. Moreover, not everyone is a good candidate to wear contact lenses at all—during a routine or comprehensive medical eye exam, a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist can help you determine if contacts are a safe option for you.

Non-prescription contact lenses are illegal and therefore unregulated. This means that they can be misshapen, damaged, or harboring harmful bacteria when they find their way to your eyes. You can be safely and legally fitted for colored contact lenses by a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist, then purchase them from a reputable, FDA-approved medical company. No matter how cool off-the-shelf novelty contact lenses might make your Halloween costume look, they’re simply not worth the risk.

If you’re due for an eye exam, would like to get a prescription for new contact lenses, or are interested in any of the many other services or products we offer, contact Georgia Eye Physicians & Surgeons to schedule an appointment today. Be sure to follow Dr. William Segal and Dr. Marc Lay on Facebook and Twitter for more eyecare information, fun facts, and the latest news and updates about eye health.