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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Halloween Safety Alert: Costume Contact Lenses Can Damage Eyes

Posted: 10.14.2014

Lana Srur, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology

Wearing decorative contact lenses to enhance your Halloween costume may seem fun, but it can permanently damage vision. Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami School of Medicine warns consumers that using decorative lenses without a prescription or 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 sold online and through flea markets, convenience stores, and shops.

Dr. Lana Srur, assistant professor of clinical 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 injuries such as cuts and open sores in the cornea, as well as bacterial infections, which could lead to corneal scarring and vision loss,” she added. Dr. Srur 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 and fees. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also advised that consumers should only buy decorative contact lenses from an eye care professional or seller who requires a prescription.