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Costume Shopping? Get the Facts Before Donning Decorative Contact Lenses

If you’re looking for that eye-popping touch for your Halloween costume, you may want to think twice before donning decorative contact lenses. These products are increasingly popular costume ideas, but according the American Academy of Ophthalmology, decorative contact lenses can also lead to real-life nightmares like permanent eye damage and vision loss when they are purchased without a prescription.

Many people don’t realize that all contact lenses are medical devices that require a prescription and proper fitting by an eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist – an eye medical doctor. Products that claim “one size fits all” or “no need to see an eye specialist” are misleading, and may even be on the market illegally. Retailers that sell contacts without a prescription are breaking the law, and may be fined $11,000 per violation. Only buy decorative contact lenses from an eye care professional or retailer who asks for a prescription and sells FDA-approved products.

“Decorative contact lenses may look cool but I’ve seen patient after patient who were unaware of the risks of these products and are now living with permanent vision loss,” said Thomas Steinemann, M.D., a professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University and MetroHealth Medical Center, and a clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “A teenage girl having to undergo a corneal transplant to save her sight isn’t cool. It’s devastating to the patient, the parents and to me as a physician.”

To safely wear decorative contact lenses this Halloween or any time of year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends following these guidelines:

  • Get an eye exam from an eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist, who will measure each eye and talk to you about proper contact lens care.
  • Obtain a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and expiration date.
  • Purchase the decorative contact lenses from a licensed eye care professional or an eye product retailer who asks for a prescription.
  • Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses.
  • Never share contact lenses with another person.
  • Get follow up exams with your eye care provider.

If you notice redness, swelling, excessive discharge, pain or discomfort from wearing contact lenses, remove the lenses and seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist. Eye infections like keratitis can quickly become serious and cause blindness if left untreated.

For more information on decorative contact lens safety or to find an Eye M.D., visit www.geteyesmart.org