Anyone planning to wear colored contact lenses on Halloween should heed a warning from eye-care professionals: Decorative contacts that have not been properly fitted could damage your eyes.
Wearing any kind of contact lens requires proper fitting. Lenses that are too loose or too tight can cause damage by rubbing against the cornea, the transparent front part of the eye.
“The risks include infection, ulcers, decreased vision, cuts or scratches to the surface of the eye, itchiness or redness. If these conditions are left untreated, the injuries can progress rapidly. In severe cases, blindness and eye loss can occur, warns Dr. Karen Smith, California’s public health officer.
Decorative contact lenses often are sold at beauty supply and novelty stores, the California Department of Public Health said. But the sale of contact lenses without a prescription is illegal. Only licensed optometrists and ophthalmologists can prescribe contact lenses and registered opticians and optical shops can fill the prescriptions.
Fresno optometrist Michael Mendoza said there has been a surge in illegal sales of decorative contact lenses in the past few years.
Two years ago, a sting operation in Southern California led by the federal Food and Drug Administration found misbranded lenses. Another concern, the FDA Operation “Cat Eyes” found some of the illegally sold lenses were contaminated with bacteria that could potentially lead to sight-threatening diseases.
If they feel even the slightest irritation, take the lenses out and do not wear them.
Michael Mendoza, Fresno optometrist
Contact lenses are medical devices, Mendoza said. They have to be fitted to make sure enough oxygen gets to the eye. Popping in an ill-fitting lens can be like putting “a bag over your head with no hole in it,” he said.
The lenses are designed to create a different appearance and are not intended to be worn for very long. Halloween revelers may be first-time contact lens wearers, which can up their risk of eye injury if they have not been trained how to properly insert and take out the lenses, Mendoza said.
His advice for anyone who has bought a decorative lens without a prescription: “If they feel even the slightest irritation, take the lenses out and do not wear them.”
See an eye doctor if they have any redness of the eye, he said.
Illegal sales of lenses can be reported to the California Department of Public Health Food and Drug Branch Hotline at 800-495-3232.