With Halloween just around the corner people may be thinking a cool way to finish off their costume is with zebra-striped or glow-in-the-dark decorative contact lenses. Decorative contact lenses might be a cool way to add flare to your Halloween costume, but they are actually dangerous for the eyes. The lenses are not FDA approved, bought without a prescription and are illegal to even be sold in stores. There’s been a law in place since 2005.
Kansas City ophthalmologist Kevin Skelsey says people that use them are under the impression that they’re safe, but could potentially have sometimes permanent negative consequences. “The most important thing is that they can result in terrible infections and even vision loss. There have been cases where people have actually lost the eye due to very bad infections,” he says.
Skelsey says that those types of lenses, if they are not fitted to the eye properly can mechanically scratch the surface of the eye. They can also not allow oxygen to permeate to the front part of the eye. The end result can be a scratch on the surface that can then very easily become infected and that can lead to scarring and potentially vision loss.
Skelsey says decorative contacts are okay as long as they are fitted and obtained through an eye care professional. If someone should take those steps they will be safe, he says. “Otherwise, people are just playing Russian roulette, and are setting themselves up for a potentially very bad infection that could result in corneal transplants, permanent scarring or vision loss,” he says.
He says with prescription lenses, the materials are designed to allow oxygen to move across the lens, to keep the surface of the eye healthy and they are also fitted to the curvature of the eye. And with the decorative lenses, they are made of other materials so they don’t allow for that oxygen transfer and they just don’t fit the eye properly.
Skelsey says people who wear the decorative non-prescription lenses have a 16 times greater rate of infection versus people who wear normal prescription contact lenses. The people that are using the lenses have not been told how to properly care for them. This could make them more likely to do things that make themselves more prone to infection such as using tap water to rinse the lenses.
For more information, visit www.geteyesmart.org
AUDIO: Mary Farucci reports. (1:02)