Your Safety Checklist for Halloween Contact Lenses
This article was originally published by the American Optometric Association.
Remember the last time you bought underwear from a random website, at the gas station or a flea market? Perhaps the packaging was questionable, or the quality was poor, but they were a perfect color you were looking. You examine them close and wonder, “Where did these even come from?”
Extreme? It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds, considering many Americans detrimentally play this scenario out every Halloween, not over underwear but decorative, costume contact lenses. In fact, 26 percent of Americans who have worn non-corrective, decorative contact lenses purchased them without a prescription from a source other than their eye doctor. And while questionable underwear certainly has its own issues, questionably acquired contact lenses can cause serious eye health issues or even permanent damage.
Whether corrective or decorative, all contact lenses are classified as medical devices by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and that means they require a prescription from an eye doctor before touching your eyes. Likewise, it means those knock-off, costume contact lenses packaged next to lottery tickets at the convenience store aren’t only of questionable legality, but they also could be dangerous.
No Rx? They’re unsafe
But don’t just take our word for it: In 2017, the FDA published a case report in the Journal of Forensic Sciences that found a majority of unapproved, counterfeit contact lenses tested positive for the kinds of microbial contamination frequently found in hospital waste water or spoiled food. Respectively, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Bacillus cereus were just a pair of microorganisms identified in the FDA’s examination of more than 300 individual contact lenses obtained without a prescription from sources such as import seizures, novelty stores, tattoo parlors, flea markets and internet marketplaces.
Not convinced yet? The FDA found 60 percent of suspected counterfeit lenses and 27 percent of unapproved lenses tested positive for microbial contamination. These microbes are the same ones commonly associated with serious eye infections and vision loss, including microbial keratitis and bacterial endophthalmitis.
And they’re illegal
However, health and safety aren’t the only reasons to forgo that online shopping cart full of non-prescribed contact lenses. It’s also illegal.
The Fairness to Contact Lens Consumer Act (FCLCA) and the Federal Trade Commission’s Contact Lens Rule stipulate that it’s unlawful for retailers to sell contact lenses without first verifying the validity of the patient’s prescription. Unfortunately, retailers may not know-or in some circumstances, choose to ignore-these consumer protections intended to put patient’s health and safety first. These protections are to ensure patients are good candidates for contact lenses with healthy corneas that can safely tolerate lenses.
An estimated 45 million Americans wear contact lenses, a form of eyewear that provides many benefits when worn and cared for properly. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that a whopping 9 in 10 contact lens wearers commit at least one hygiene faux pas that can up their risk of eye infection or inflammation. That’s why doctors’ oversight is so critical to safeguarding patients’ eye health.
“Decorative contact lenses are a cool accessory to a Halloween costume but only if they’re prescribed and fitted by a doctor of optometry,” AOA President Barbara L. Horn, O.D., says. “Unfortunately, people may buy their decorative lenses illegally without a prescription from a street vendor, at a beauty supply store, on the internet, or in a novelty shop. The consequences for their vision can be very serious.
How to be safe about it
So, the bottom line: If your perfect Halloween costume requires decorative contact lenses, then simply book an exam with us and inquire about safe contact lens options. Here are some tips for keeping your eyes healthy this Halloween:
- Visit your eye doctor for a contact lens exam, fitting and prescription (regardless of whether you need vision correction).
- Buy contact lenses from a licensed ECP or an eyewear retailer that requires you to have a prescription. Never buy contact lenses from an unlicensed source that doesn’t require a prescription. Doing so greatly increases your risk of serious eye problems.
- Always follow your ECP’s instructions for wearing and caring for your contact lenses, and make sure to book for follow-up eye exams.
- Never share your contact lenses! While it may seem like a fun idea to swap special-effect lenses with your friends, sharing contacts can spread harmful bacteria and may result in serious eye health problems, including loss of vision.
- Keep in mind that “crazy” contact lenses generally are designed for daily wear only and are not FDA-approved to be worn overnight.
- If you experience any eye redness, swelling or discomfort, immediately remove your contact lenses and contact your eye doctor as soon as possible. This could be the sign of a potentially sight-threatening eye infection.
- Wear only hypoallergenic, non-toxic makeup. If makeup is used on a child’s face, it should be applied and removed by an adult. For removal, use eye makeup remover or cold cream, not soap.
- Be aware that false eyelashes also can cause eye irritation. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding safe application and removal.
We offer premium special FX contact lens options year round!
Are you interested in special FX contact lenses for Halloween or a special event? Visit or contact any of our offices to find out which pattern and color options are available in your prescription or book an exam with us today if you are due for a contact lens fitting.
Want more information about contact lens safety? Read more here.
Our team is working hard to provide top-notch optometry services here in Chicago. We understand the importance of good eye health, which is why we offer the latest information, technology, and methods in the industry. We offer optimal services for people of all ages. Why not call to schedule eye exams for the whole family?
At Village Eyecare, we are committed to the health of our patients. For more information please schedule an exam with our team. We have four offices here in the Chicago area, so that you can choose the location nearest to your home.