Are Novelty/Halloween (And Other Colored) Contact Lenses Safe?

Are Novelty/Halloween (And Other Colored) Contact Lenses Safe?

During the month of October, we often have patients inquire about decorative contact lenses or “Crazy Eyes” contacts that change the look of the eye- Are they safe? Is there a difference between lenses purchased from fashion/beauty sources or overseas compared to what is available in a Doctor’s office? Many people enjoy changing their eye color or having a different look for special occasions.  We want to help our patients do that safely!

Whether we are talking about novelty contact lenses like theatrical contacts, colored contacts, or traditional soft lenses, it is important to remember that the material is being placed directly on the cornea (the clear front layer of the eye) and therefore poses a serious risk to the eye if the lens is contaminated or used improperly.  All contacts, even plano (meaning there is no vision correction in the lens) are classified as medical devices by the FDA, and to be obtained legally, require a valid prescription to ensure a safe and healthy fit in each individual’s eye.  Contact lenses are not a one-size-fits-all; they come in different diameters, base curves, and materials.  Lenses purchased without a prescription may not fit properly, leaving the eye more susceptible to corneal abrasions or ulcers (an open sore) on the cornea. The result of a scratch or sore can be scarring, infection, and permanent vision reduction or loss.

The most serious concern with illegal contact lenses is the risk of eye infection due to contamination of the lenses.  Decorative contact lenses sold without a prescription at Halloween stores, convenience stores, flea markets, beauty shops and online are not regulated, are often expired and often contain high enough levels of bacteria that can cause serious eye infections, impaired vision, and even blindness.

Each year there are reports of serious eye infections caused by illegal contact lenses.  An eye-opening excerpt from  “In October 2016, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced that ICE, the FDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) combined efforts to make several hundred seizures totaling around 100,000 pairs of counterfeit, illegal and unapproved contact lenses. The enforcement actions were conducted under the FDA-led initiative dubbed Operation Double Vision, which is an ongoing effort to protect the health and safety of the American public from illegal contact lenses.  Testing of confiscated illegal lenses revealed many had high levels of bacteria.  Also, the coloring of some decorative contact lenses were made of lead-based materials that could leach directly into the eye.”

Here are some tips to help you safely enjoy decorative contact lenses:

Contact Lens Safety Checklist
1. Visit your eye doctor for a contact lens exam, fitting and prescription.  A contact lens fitting and evaluation with your eye doctor ensures your contact lens fits your eye properly to reduce the risk of contact lens-related eye injuries.  At Kirkwood Eye Center we have specialized technology to measure the curvature of the eye and in more complex eyes, the topography of the cornea to ensure the best possible contact lens prescription and fit for each patient.

2. Buy contact lenses from a licensed Eye Care Provider that requires you to have a prescription. Never buy contact lenses from an unlicensed source that doesn’t require a prescription. Doing so greatly increases your risk of acquiring contaminated lenses that can result in serious eye problems.

3. Always follow your eye doctor’s instructions for contact lens wear and visit your eye doctor for follow-up eye exams.

4. Never share your contact lenses! While it may seem like a fun idea to swap special-effect lenses with your friends, sharing contacts can spread harmful bacteria and may result in serious eye health problems, including loss of vision.

5. Keep in mind that “crazy” contact lenses generally are designed for occasional day-time wear only and are not FDA-approved to be worn while sleeping.

6. If you experience any eye redness or discomfort, immediately remove your contact lenses and contact your eye doctor as soon as possible. This could be the sign of a potentially sight-threatening eye infection.

We have a wide selection of colored contact lenses and theatrical contact lenses available.  If you are interested in having theatrical contacts in time for Halloween, contact us today!  All orders placed by October 20th are guaranteed to arrive by the 31st with standard shipping.

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