Your Safety Checklist for Halloween Contact Lenses

Have you ever purchased Halloween costume contact lenses from a random store? Maybe it was online, or a fashion retailer. You examine them close and wonder, “Where did these even come from?” But most importantly, “Are these safe?”

Many Americans detrimentally play this scenario out every Halloween over decorative, costume contact lenses. In fact, 26% of Americans who have worn non-corrective, decorative contact lenses purchased them without a prescription from a source other than their eye doctor. These questionably acquired contact lenses can cause serious eye health issues or even permanent damage.

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.

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.

The FDA also 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.

How to be safe this Halloween:

If your perfect Halloween costume requires decorative contact lenses, book an exam with us and inquire about safe contact lens options. Here are some tips for keeping your eyes healthy this Halloween:

    1. Visit your eye doctor for a contact lens exam, fitting and prescription (regardless of whether you need vision correction).
    2. Buy contact lenses from a licensed ECP 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.
    3. Always follow your ECP’s instructions for wearing and caring for your contact lenses, and make sure to book for follow-up eye exams.
    4. 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.
    5. Keep in mind that “crazy” contact lenses generally are designed for daily wear only and are not FDA-approved to be worn overnight.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Be aware that false eyelashes also can cause eye irritation. Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding safe application and removal.

Be safe, and have a happy Halloween!