As you begin to plan your Halloween costume, local ophthalmologist Dr. Jonathan Frantz joins the American Academy of Ophthalmology in educating the public about the hidden dangers of decorative contact lenses obtained without a prescription.
Halloween is a popular time for people to use decorative contact lenses or the latest fad, circle lenses, to enhance their costumes. However, given how easy it is to obtain theses products, it’s becoming increasingly popular for people to purchase these novelty lenses all year-round; but few know the risks associated with these lenses. “Most people believe that decorative lenses do not require the same level of care or consideration as a standard contact lens because they can be purchased over-the-counter or on the Internet,” says Dr. Frantz, medical director of Florida Eye Health. “This is far from the truth.”
There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” contact lens. Lenses that are not properly fitted may scratch the eye or cause blood vessels to grow into the cornea. “The lenses may even cause an infection that could leave you with a corneal abrasion,” added Dr. Frantz. Many of the lenses found online or in beauty salons, novelty shops or in pop-up Halloween stores are not FDA-approved and are being sold illegally. Websites often advertise decorative contacts as if they were cosmetics, fashion accessories or toys. With whimsical, playful packaging, their targets are often teens and young adults. But the increasingly popular circle lenses, which are especially liked by teenage girls, are not FDA-approved.
“All contact lens are medical devices that require a prescription and proper fitting by an eye-care professional,” said Dr. Frantz. To protect the eyes, an eye-care professional measures each eye in order to properly fit contacts for the patient. Additionally, the eye-care professional instructs the patient on appropriate contact lens care. Lenses that are not cleaned and disinfected increase the risk of eye infection. Even if you have perfect vision, you need to get an eye exam and a prescription from an eye-care professional in order to wear any kind of contact lens.
Dr. Frantz says that not all patients are good candidates for contacts (prescription or decorative lenses). Patients who have frequent eye infections, severe allergies, dry eye that is resistant to treatment, a very dusty work environment or an inability to handle and care for the lenses may not be suitable candidates for contacts. An eye-care professional can help you make a decision that is right for you and your eyes.
Under a 2005 federal law, distribution of all contact lenses is restricted to licensed eye-care professionals. Illegal sale of contacts can result in civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. Consumers should only buy decorative contact lenses from an eye-care professional or a seller who asks for a prescription.
Note: You Tube link to “Halloween Contact Lenses Can Be Scary”