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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Halloween Safety Warning: The Scary Risks of Costume Contact Lenses & Eye Tattoos

Posted: 10.27.2017

Wearing costume contact lenses or tattooing your eyeballs to enhance your fright factor may seem appealing, but beware, dangerous chemicals and painful infections can lead to permanent eye damage and vision loss. The Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are warning Halloween shoppers to understand the risks of wearing over-the-counter contact lenses as well as the extreme dangers of eye tattoos.

While non-prescription contact lenses are illegal to sell, they can still be easily purchased at places such as beauty supply stores, costume shops and online. Falsely advertised as “one-size-fits-all” or “no prescription necessary” is deceiving, as these lenses can cause serious eye damage.

Dr. Kendall Donaldson, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, advises, “Contact lenses worn without a doctor’s prescription greatly increase the possibility of serious complications. These lenses may cause injuries such as cuts, open sores, and bacterial infections of the cornea, which may lead to corneal scarring and vision loss. Additional risks include conjunctivitis (pink eye), swelling of the eye (corneal edema), sensitivity to light, and allergic reactions.”

A much less common enhancement, but with extremely dangerous risks is eyeball tattooing (also known as sclera tattooing), the permanent tattooing of the whites of the eye. Sclera tattooing can lead to blindness and loss of an eye. “Once another substance is injected into the layers of the eye, it can cause chronic inflammation of the wall of the eye,” says Donaldson.

For these reasons, Bascom Palmer and the Academy advise consumers against wearing decorative lenses without a prescription or getting any kind of eye tattoo.