During the Halloween season, many people are tempted to add decorative contact lenses to put the finishing touches on their costumes for a cool or spooky look. If you purchase these lenses without a prescription or the involvement of an eye care professional, you can risk serious eye damage.
Most decorative lenses are readily available from street vendors, in novelty shops, or from costume or Halloween shops. Some people are tempted to purchase these lenses as they are usually inexpensive and add a “fun” look to a costume. These lenses should be avoided as they can cause serious infections, which can lead to decreased vision or even blindness.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with a variety of eye care professionals are warning consumers about the use of decorative lenses. They warn that serious eye disorders and infections can occur when wearing lenses without the benefit of being fitted professionally with an eye examination and prescription. The FDA states that although it’s illegal to sell decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription, they can be bought easily on the internet and in retail shops. The FDA warns:
- They are not cosmetics or over-the-counter merchandise. They are medical devices regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Places that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them without a prescription are breaking the law.
- They are not “one size fits all.” An eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) must measure each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how your eye responds to contact lens wear. 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
- Places that sell decorative lenses without a prescription may give you few or no instructions on how to clean and care for your lenses.
Where Not to Buy Contact Lenses
The FDA is aware that many places illegally sell decorative contact lenses to consumers without valid prescriptions for as little as $20. You should never buy lenses from:
- street vendors
- salons or beauty supply stores
- flea markets
- novelty stores
- Halloween stores
- record or video stores
- convenience stores
- beach shops
- Internet (unless the site requires a prescription)
Infection or loss of vision is a high price to pay for a Halloween costume. If you want to purchase the lenses for your costume, make sure to see an eye professional for an examination and prescription.