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Hazards of Halloween Contact Lenses

October 2, 2019

BY JENNIFER KESSLER, OD

Every October we see an increase in questions from customers and patients about specialty Halloween contact lenses.  These decorative lenses change the appearance of your eyes, and can be worn with or without correcting your vision. There are many different designs available, created to let you cheer on your favorite sports team with their logo, resemble an authentic looking cat-eye, or completely black out the color of your eyes. 

 

It is important to remember that all contact lenses are considered medical devices by the federal government, and as such they are not a one size fits all item.[1]  Halloween contacts are not an over-the-counter or cosmetic product. Therefore, it is important to be evaluated by an eye care professional before wearing them. 

 

Why Are They Dangerous?

 

Research has shown that the colors and tints found in these lenses are actually made using harmful chemicals such as chlorine and iron, that are toxic to our eyes.[2]   Also, many of the lenses are sold through illegal sources and are not properly regulated by the FDA.  This means that they fail to meet the standard requirements for oxygen permeability and wettability that are so important for maintaining the health of our eyes. 

 

Another issue is that colorants used to create these designs can create an uneven surface.  When the contact surface is not smooth, it can result in scratches on the eye.  Scratches can be painful on their own, but in the presence of a contact lens, they create an opening in which bacteria can invade the eye; these bacteria can lead to severe infections that can be vision-threatening.

 

How can I wear them safely?

 

  • Be sure to get a comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist in order to obtain a valid contact lens prescription.
  • Buy from a seller who requires a prescription and sells FDA approved lenses.  Never buy contact lenses from a flea market, costume shop, Halloween stores, or beauty supply store as they are not FDA regulated and can be very harmful.[3]
  • Follow all direction about cleaning and proper care as directed by your eye care professional, and never share your contact lenses with other people.
  • If you experience redness, swelling, discharge, or pain after wearing contact lenses, seek medical attention immediately from your eye doctor.  These symptoms could indicate an infection. 

 

 

References:

 

1. AOA.org; Beware Inferior Quality Contact Lenses: Optometrist Warn of Eye Health Hazard from Chemicals; Newsroom.

2. AAO.org; Halloween Warning from Ophthalmologists: OTC Contact Lenses Could Contain Dangerous Chemicals; News Releases.

3. FDA.gov; Decorative Contact Lenses: A Prescription Is A Must; Consumer Updates.