Don’t Let Costume Contact Lenses Lead to Scary Eye Issues

Nonprescription contact lenses pose safety concerns

Woman placing contact lens

Those “cats’ eyes” contact lenses may seem like the perfect accessory for your Halloween costume. But they may cause health problems far scarier than a stomachache from eating too much candy.

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Contact lenses are foreign objects that come into contact with an extremely sensitive part of your body. If you buy them from a disreputable source — without help from a trained eye care professional — you risk not only a bad fit but also infections, scarring and even vision loss.

To wear any cosmetic contact lenses safely, start by following the tips below.

1. Buy contact lenses from a healthcare professional

You may have seen decorative lenses online, at Halloween stores, and beauty salons or even at gas stations. But did you know selling costume or cosmetic contact lenses without a prescription is actually illegal?

That’s just one reason to buy from an eye care professional. Here’s another: You need the right fit. Contacts are not one-size-fits-all, which is why your eye doctor examines the shape of your eyes thoroughly before writing a prescription.

Even a cosmetic lens needs to fit right so it doesn’t irritate your eye. A bad fit can lead to scratches and ulcers on your cornea, a danger for permanent vision damage.

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There is also no guarantee nonprescription lenses are sterile or free of potential bacteria. Recent studies have shown they may harbor chemicals, such as chlorine, that irritate the eye.

Your ophthalmologist or optometrist should have access to cosmetic contact lenses — and they’ll be quality-assured. You won’t get any eye expertise at a gas station.

RELATED: Avoid Eye Infections From Bad Contact Lens Habits

2. Seek care if there’s a problem

If you do buy cosmetic contacts — especially from a questionable source — and you have irritation, seek care. And stop wearing the lenses.

We worry most about infections that can cause permanent damage from bacteria, viruses or parasites. These types of infections progress rapidly, within days or even hours. So if you continue to wear the lenses and don’t get treated immediately, you can end up with permanent scarring that affects your vision.

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Your vision is too important to risk it.

RELATED: 8 Smart Hygiene Habits for Contact Lens Wearers

3. Follow good hygiene practices

Care for your cosmetic lenses like you would any other type of contact lens.

If they come from a reputable source, follow the manufacturer’s and doctor’s instructions for usage. Some lenses might be daily-wear disposables, while others can be used for days or weeks at a time. All ophthalmologists agree it’s never safe to sleep overnight in contact lenses. This bad habit can greatly increase the risk of infection.

The bottom line: If your costume simply must have cosmetic contact lenses this Halloween, get them through an eye care professional. If any eye irritation results from wearing these devices, don’t wait to seek care from your eye doctor.

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Richard Gans, MD

Richard E Gans, M.D., FACS joined the Cleveland Clinic Cole Eye Institute in 2004. He is an accomplished surgeon and a comprehensive ophthalmologist.
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