As people across the state start shopping for their perfect Halloween costume and are tempted to complete their look with costume contact lenses bought without a prescription, Nebraska ophthalmologists – medical doctors specializing in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions – are warning consumers that doing so can lead to permanent vision loss.
Although the practice has been illegal since 2005, today cosmetic contact lenses are still sold in shops and via online retailers to customers who are unaware that wearing these devices can result in serious eye injuries.
The Nebraska Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology warn that the lenses, which may not be manufactured to meet federal health and safety standards, can cause injuries such as cuts and open sores in the protective layer of the iris and pupil (corneal abrasions and ulcers) and potentially blinding painful bacterial infections (keratitis).
These injuries can require serious eye surgeries such as corneal transplants, and in some cases lead to permanent vision loss. One study found that wearing cosmetic contact lenses increased the keratitis risk by more than 16 times.
Federal law classifies all contact lenses as medical devices and restricts their distribution to licensed eye care professionals. Illegal sale of contact lenses can result in civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation.
To safely wear decorative contact lenses this Halloween or any time of year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends following these guidelines:
Only buy decorative contact lenses from an eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist or a retailer that requires a prescription and sells FDA-approved products.
If you don’t already have a contact lens prescription, obtain a valid prescription and eye exam from an ophthalmologist or optometrist, a health care professional who provides primary vision care ranging from sight testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment and management of vision changes
Even for those with perfect vision, an eye exam and prescription are mandatory in order to fit the right size contacts.
Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the lenses.
Contacts that are left in for too long or that are not properly cleaned and disinfected can significantly increase the risk of an eye infection.
Never share contact lenses with another person or wear expired lenses.
If you notice redness, swelling, excessive discharge, pain or discomfort from wearing contact lenses, remove the lenses and seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist.
Eye infections like keratitis can quickly become serious and cause blindness if left untreated.