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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Bascom Palmer Halloween Safety Alert: Decorative Non-prescription Contact Lenses Can Damage Eyes

Posted: 10.31.2011

Giving your eyes a Halloween look with wild contact lenses may be all the rage, but it can permanently damage vision. Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami School of Medicine warns consumers that using decorative lenses sold without both a prescription and a fitting by an eye-care professional carries serious risks to vision, potentially leading to blindness. Often painted in vivid patterns, these lenses are used to change the eye’s appearance – not to improve vision. They are typically marketed through flea markets, convenience stores, beach shops and online.

Dr. Sonia Yoo, professor of ophthalmology at Bascom Palmer, advises, “Contact lenses purchased and worn without an eye exam or a doctor’s prescription greatly increase the possibility of serious complications. One size does not fit all — especially non-prescription cosmetic contacts, which often fit improperly. These lenses may cause corneal abrasion or infection, which could lead to corneal scarring and vision loss,” she added. Dr. Yoo said additional risks include conjunctivitis (pink eye), swelling of the eye (corneal edema), sensitivity to light, allergic reactions to lens coatings and interference with normal activities including driving.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recently emphasized that a federal law passed in 2005 classified all contact lenses as medical devices and restricted their distribution to licensed eye care professionals. Illegal sale of contacts can result in civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also advised that consumers should only buy decorative contact lenses from an eye care professional or seller who requires a prescription.

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute has earned an international reputation as one of the premier providers of eye care in the world and is ranked the nation’s #1 eye hospital by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for eight consecutive years. Bascom Palmer is the largest ophthalmic care, research and educational facility in the southeastern United States, treating more than 250,000 patients each year and performing more than 12,000 surgical procedures annually. With patient care facilities in Miami, Palm Beach Gardens, Naples and Plantation, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute has served as the Department of Ophthalmology for the University of Miami School of Medicine since its founding in 1962.