Halloween is coming and it might be tempting to make your costume cooler by wearing contacts that change your eye color or otherwise alter the appearance of your eyes. However, eye care professionals and government officials warn that improperly fitted contacts and decorative lenses that are sold (illegally) over the counter can cause lasting harm.
“It’s important to have a medical eye and vision examination from your optometrist to be sure you are a good candidate for contact lenses and your cornea can safely tolerate the lenses,” according to the American Optometric Association. “Your eye doctor will also make sure your lenses fit properly and teach you how to safely care for your lenses.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes that decorative contact lenses are not cosmetics or over-the-counter merchandise, they are medical devices regulated by the FDA. Places that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them without a prescription are breaking the law.
The FDA also warns consumers that lenses must be properly fit by a medical professional, as a poor fit can cause serious eye damage, including:
- scratches on the cornea (the clear dome of tissue over the iris – the part of the eye that gives you your eye color)
- corneal infection (an ulcer on the cornea)
- conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- decreased vision
The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers these guidelines for safely wearing costume contact lenses:
- Get an eye exam from a licensed eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist — an eye medical doctor — who will measure each eye and talk to you about proper contact lens care.
- Obtain a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and expiration date.
- Purchase the colored contact lenses from an eye product retailer who asks for a prescription.
- Follow the contact lens care directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses.
- Never share contact lenses with another person.
- Get follow up exams with your eye care provider.
- 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.