Costume lenses can be scary risk
As people across the state start shopping for their perfect Halloween costume and are tempted to complete their look with costume contact lenses bought without a prescription, California ophthalmologists — medical doctors specializing in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions — are warning consumers that doing so can lead to permanent vision loss.
Although the practice has been illegal since 2005, today cosmetic contact lenses are still sold in shops and via online retailers to customers who are unaware that wearing these devices can result in serious eye injuries.
The California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology warn that the lenses, which may not be manufactured to meet federal health and safety standards, can cause injuries such as cuts and open sores (corneal abrasions and ulcers) in the protective layer of the iris and pupil, and potentially blinding painful bacterial infections known as keratitis.
These injuries can require serious eye surgeries such as corneal transplants, and in some cases lead to permanent vision loss.
"The eyes are one of the most delicate and important parts of the body, so what you put in and on them must be medically approved. Yet, every Halloween, we see people tragically sacrificing their sight for one night of costume fun," said Asa D. Morton III, M.D., president of the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons. "It is heart-breaking when patients find out that their vision has been ruined by these lenses."
For more information on decorative contact lens safety or to find an Eye M.D., visit www.geteyesmart.org.
To safely wear decorative contact lenses this Halloween or any time of year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends following these guidelines:
• Only buy decorative contact lenses from an eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist or a retailer that requires a prescription and sells FDA-approved products.
• If you don't already have a contact lens prescription, obtain a valid prescription and eye exam from an ophthalmologist or optometrist, a health care professional who provides primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment and management of vision changes
• Even for those with perfect vision, an eye exam and prescription are mandatory in order to fit the right size contacts. Do not fall victim to false advertising claims and lenses labeled as "one size fits all" or "no need to see an eye specialist."
• Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the lenses. Contacts that are left in for too long or that are not properly cleaned and disinfected can significantly increase the risk of an eye infection.
• Never share contact lenses with another person or wear expired lenses.
• 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.
Source: California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons