Each year, as Halloween approaches, revelers find new and interesting ways to enhance their costumes. Many have turned to decorative contact lenses to complete their ghoulish or fantasy-like looks. Topping off a costume with blood-drenched vampire eyes, glow-in-the-dark lizard lenses or maybe even the newest fad, circle lenses are all cool and trendy options. But most people do not know the sight-stealing consequences behind making these choices. Obtaining decorative lenses including colored contacts and novelty or costume lenses without a prescription is dangerous. And circle lenses, which are becoming increasingly popular with teenage girls, are not FDA-approved. Websites often advertise decorative contacts as if they were cosmetics, fashion accessories or toys. With whimsical, playful packaging and names like Dolly Eyes, their targets are often teens and young adults.
This year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology along with its partners the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS), and the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists (CLAO), are working together to warn parents and teens that purchasing any contact lenses without an eye examination and a prescription from a licensed eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist – an eye medical doctor – can cause serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to blindness. All contact lenses are medical devices that require a prescription and proper fitting by an eye care professional. Even if someone has perfect vision, they need to get an eye exam and a prescription from an eye care professional in order to wear any kind of contacts, including cosmetic lenses.
“Most people believe that decorative lenses don’t require the same level of care or consideration as corrective contact lenses because they can be purchased over-the-counter or on the Internet. This is far from the truth,” said Thomas Steinemann, MD, professor of ophthalmology, MetroHealth Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “In fact, permanent eye damage can occur from using over-the-counter lenses. We want to discourage all consumers, especially teens, from buying contact lenses in beauty salons, novelty shops or in Halloween stores.”