Popular Halloween products can lead to eye damage and vision loss
Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 8:00 pm
NASHVILLE — As kids across the state shop for their Halloween costumes, the Tennessee Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are warning Tennessee parents and teens about the dangers of non-prescription decorative contact lenses.
Decorative contact lenses are increasingly popular to create elaborate costumes, offering blood drenched vampire eyes, glow-in-the-dark lizard eyes and more. Unfortunately, decorative contact lenses can also lead to real-life nightmares, including permanent eye damage and vision loss. One study found that wearing decorative contact lenses increased the risk for developing keratitis — a potentially blinding infection that causes an ulcer on the eye — by more than 16 times. These patients were most often teenagers or young adults.
All contact lenses require a prescription and proper fitting by an eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist — an eye medical doctor. Even if someone has perfect vision, they need to get an eye exam and a prescription in order to wear any kind of contacts, including decorative contact lenses. Products that claim “one size fits all” or “no need to see an eye specialist” can mislead consumers and may be on the market illegally.
“Most people don’t realize that decorative contact lenses require the same level of medical care as corrective contact lenses,” said Dr. Ben B. Mahan, president of the Tennessee Academy of Ophthalmology. “Every year, we see patients who thought that decorative contacts were safe because they were purchased over-the-counter, but this is far from the truth. 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 Halloween stores.”
In 2005, a federal law classified all contact lenses as medical devices and restricted their distribution to licensed eye care professionals. Illegal sale of contact lenses can result in civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. Additionally, some decorative lenses, such as trendy circle lenses, are not FDA-approved. Consumers should only buy decorative contact lenses from an eye care professional or a seller who asks for a prescription and sells FDA-approved products.
To safely wear decorative contact lenses this Halloween or any time of year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends following these guidelines:
• Get an eye exam from an eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist.
• Obtain a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and expiration date.
• Purchase the decorative contact lenses from a licensed eye care professional or an eye product retailer who asks for a prescription.
• Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses.
• Never share contact lenses with another person.
• Get follow up exams by your eye care provider.
To obtain a prescription for decorative contact lenses, an eye care professional will measure each eye to ensure proper fit. Contacts that are not fitted by an eye care professional may scratch the eye or cause blood vessels to grow into the cornea. An eye care professional will also provide contact lens care instructions. Contacts that are left in for too long or that are not properly cleaned and disinfected can significantly increase the risk of an eye infection.
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. Eye infections like keratitis can quickly become serious and cause blindness if left untreated. For more information on decorative contact lens safety or to find an eye doctor, visit www.geteyesmart.org. Published in The Messenger 10.17.12