If you’re considering wearing cosmetic contact lenses with your Halloween costume this year, think again. Costume contact lenses seem like an easy way to change your eye color or add a spooky effect, but they can actually cost you your vision.
Dr. David Samimi of Eyesthetica has seen the horrifying effects of costume contact lenses firsthand. A few years ago, he treated a woman that had purchased cosmetic contact lenses on the street. She was later rushed to the emergency room with a rampant eye infection that likely came from a dirty contact lens case. Street vendors don’t always provide basic hygiene education to customers.
Unfortunately, an aggressive strain of bacteria destroyed her right eye. It melted the cornea, causing the iris to protrude forward and plug the wound. The patient went blind in one eye, had it removed, and now wears a prosthetic.
People that wear costume contact lenses are over 12 times more likely to get an infection, according to Dr. Samimi. Also, infections are statistically more severe. The pain and financial burden of a raging eye infection can be crippling.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) echoes Dr. Samimi’s warning about decorative contact lenses. They recently published a press piece citing a study that found chlorine, iron, and other dangerous chemicals in many costume lenses. Some lenses had uneven textures that could potentially scratch the cornea and allow bacteria to penetrate the eye.
The study found that four out of five types of costume lenses were not legally available in the U.S. because they aren’t approved by the FDA. The FDA won’t approve lenses that contain potentially harmful materials that could impair vision or lead to blindness. These non-FDA-approved lenses are commonly found online, in beauty parlors and gas stations, especially around Halloween.
Using Costume Contact Lenses Safely
There are still ways to safely enjoy costume contact lenses. Here’s how:
- First and foremost, only buy contact lenses through a doctor or retailer that requires a prescription.
- If you don’t have a current prescription for contact lenses, see an ophthalmologist or optometrist about getting one.
- Make sure the lenses you purchase have the FDA’s seal of approval.
- Ask your ophthalmologist and optometrist about the proper way to insert and clean your lenses.
- If you notice side effects from wearing your contacts, such as redness, swelling, discharge, pain, or discomfort, remove the contacts and get in touch with your doctor immediately.