Decorative contacts could lead to post-Halloween nightmares


ANTON OPARIN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM ANTON OPARIN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM As kids across the state shop for their Halloween costumes, the Florida Society of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Ophthalmology are warning Florida parents and teens about the dangers of non-prescription decorative contact lenses.

Decorative contact lenses are increasingly popular to create elaborate costumes, offering blood drenched vampire eyes, glow-in-the-dark lizard eyes and more. Unfortunately, they can also lead to real-life nightmares, including permanent eye damage and vision loss.

One study found that wearing decorative contact lenses increased the risk for developing keratitis — a potentially blinding infection that causes an ulcer on the eye — by more than 16 times. These patients were most often teenagers or young adults.

All contact lenses require a prescription and proper fitting by an eye care professional. Even someone who has perfect vision needs to get an eye exam and a prescription in order to wear any kind of contacts, including decorative contact lenses. Products that claim “one size fits all” or “no need to see an eye specialist” can mislead consumers and might be on the market illegally.

“Unlike corrective lenses, which most patients understand to require professional screening and fitting, decorative lenses are easily obtainable in costume shops and online, which leads people to believe that they are safe,” says Dr. Charles Slonim, president of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology. “Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see permanent eye damage and vision loss from over-the-counter cosmetic lenses. We discourage all consumers from wearing contact lenses obtained in beauty salons, novelty shops or costume stores.”

In 2005, a federal law classified all contact lenses as medical devices and restricted their distribution to licensed eye care professionals. Illegal sale of contact lenses can result in civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. Additionally, some decorative lenses, such as trendy circle lenses, are not FDA-approved. Consumers should only buy decorative contact lenses from an eye care professional or a seller who asks for a prescription and sells FDAapproved products.

To safely wear decorative contact lenses this Halloween or any time of year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends following these guidelines:

¦ Get an eye exam from an eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist.

¦ Obtain a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements and expiration date.

¦ Purchase the decorative contact lenses from a licensed eye care professional or an eye product retailer who asks for a prescription.

¦ Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the lenses.

¦ Never share contact lenses with another person.

¦ Get follow-up exams by your eye care provider.

For more information, visit to read a patient story and to view the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s 30- and 90-second public service announcements. ¦

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