Scary Lenses: Five Frightening Risks of Wearing Costume Contact Lenses

Advanced Eyecare Professionals and the American Academy of Ophthalmology share patient stories, urge Halloween revelers to avoid over-the-counter lenses

Scary-looking costume contact lenses may elevate a Halloween’s fright factor, but wearing them without a prescription could result in something far more terrifying – blindness. Advanced Eyecare Professionals (AEP) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology wants to ensure the public understands the risks of wearing over-the-counter contact lenses.

It is illegal to sell non-prescription contact lenses, but they can still be easily purchased at places such as beauty supply stores, costume shops and on the Internet. Falsely advertised as “one-size-fits-all” or “no prescription necessary,” these lenses can cause serious eye damage. One young man is now legally blind in one eye after wearing colored contact lenses he bought at a gas station. He’s suffered multiple eye infections, a cataract, and secondary glaucoma, all of which required surgery.

“It’s just not worth it,” says Dr. Michael Flohr, M.D., an ophthalmologist with the AEP team. “One night of looking scary in costume lenses is not worth losing your eyesight. Make sure to get a proper contact lens fitting from an eye health professional and contact lenses from the sources they advise are safe and credible.”

Ophthalmologists – physicians and surgeons who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – are reminding people of five frightening consequences of ignoring the warnings:

1. Scratches to the eye – If contacts are not professionally fitted to the eye, they can scratch the clear front window of the eye. This is called a corneal abrasion, which is not only painful, but can cause permanent damage. Just ask Laura Butler, who was in severe pain due to corneal abrasions 10 hours after putting in non-prescription lenses, which “stuck to my eye like suction cups.” Treatment often involves medication and patching. Sometimes, damage cannot be reversed. Butler now has a corneal scar, vision damage and a drooping eyelid.

2. Infection – Research shows wearing non-prescription contacts increases the risk of an infection called keratitis by 16 times. Early treatment with antibiotic or steroid drops may preserve vision, but sometimes surgery, such as corneal transplantation, is necessary. Robyn Rouse had to have that surgery after she got an infection after wearing non-prescription lenses she bought at a local store.

3. Pink eye – Never share contacts or eye makeup because doing so can spread germs, causing conditions such as pink eye. Highly contagious, pink eye treatment depends on the cause, but typically includes some home remedies and antibiotic eye drops.

4. Decreased vision – Whether from a corneal scratch or infection, wearing non-prescription contacts can lead to decreased vision.

5. Blindness – It’s no scare tactic: wearing non-prescription contacts can lead to permanent vision loss. Learn how to take proper care of contact lenses from an eye care professional to avoid dangerous eye infections.

“Halloween contact lenses can look scary and create an impression, but if you have not been evaluated by an eye doctor to check the fit of the lens and find out about wearing guidelines, your fun evening can end in pain and possible lasting eye damage”, says Dr. David Harrell, M.D., an AEP eye care team ophthalmologist. “Please check with an eye physician before wearing contacts so you have a happy, not scary Halloween!”

The Academy encourages the public to watch and share its “No Prescription, No Way” public service announcement that can be found on YouTube, that shows the serious damage that these non-prescription costume contact lenses can inflict on the eyes.

For more information on contact lens wear call us, we are happy to help guide you to safe and fun options for costume contact lenses.

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