A new “eye-popping” trend among American teens has created several health concerns that beg the question, how far should one go for a Halloween costume?
Decorative contact lenses, a popular Halloween accessory and celebrity adornment, have ophthalmologists cringing and urging wearers to consider the serious eye safety risks that these fashion statements pose to eye health.
“Contacts are clear plastic lenses that, when appropriately shaped, can better focus light onto the retina, reducing the need for glasses in some and providing vision for others when glasses don't work,” said Matthew Giegengack, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology. “Cosmetic and novelty lenses are of a similar material, but instead of being clear are colored to change the wearer’s appearance. The risks associated with prescribed contact lenses may be worth the benefit of good vision, but the risks associated with decorative contacts are not worth the benefit of a cool costume.”
While they may be considered fashionable by youth, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that the use of non-corrective, over-the-counter decorative contact lenses can have negative and harmful effects on one’s eyes and eye safety.
When contact lenses like Halloween contacts have not been properly fitted or prescribed for an individual by an eye care professional, the wearer could experience eye complications such as conjunctivitis, commonly called pink eye, corneal swelling, eye infection, allergic reaction, corneal abrasion, corneal ulcers, vision impairment and, in extreme cases, blindness.
“I perform one corneal transplant a month for someone with a complication from a contact lens-related infection,” said Giegengack. “These complications are more frequent in those that misuse their lenses.”
Giegengack does not condone the use of decorative contacts for any reason, however, if the contacts are on the Halloween must-have list, he suggests the following eye safety steps to more safely obtain these ornamental lenses and avoid eye injuries:
- Visit an eye care professional, even if the individual believes they have perfect vision.
- Get a valid prescription for lenses that the professional fits to that individual’s eye.
- Purchase FDA-approved decorative contacts from the eye care professional or vendor that requires a prescription.
- Follow all cleaning, disinfecting and wearing instructions.