Halloween is upon us and that means people are busy coming up with crazy costumes. For some that includes novelty contact lenses that make the eyes white, blood red or look like a snake. Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” music video has also touched off sky-rocketing interest in “circle-tinted” contacts lenses that make the eyes look like the Japanese anime cartoon characters. As pointed out in the New York Times article entitled “What Big Eyes You Have, Dear, But Are Those Contact Lenses Risky?” , most of these lenses have not been approved by the FDA and are being sold online illegally, without a prescription.
While contact lenses are generally safe when properly fit and worn as directed, they are a medical device that can lead to problems like corneal abrasions, corneal ulcers and infections. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that contact lenses accounted for 23% of pediatric emergency room visits related to medical devices. The next highest cause was hypodermic needles, way down at 8%. The vast majority of contact lens problems are related to contact lens abuse, either from improper cleaning and disinfection of the lenses, wearing them too long and/or not replacing them as often as directed.
In the case of these novelty lenses the risk is even higher because they are being sold to people without proper fitting and follow-up or education about lens care. Most of these lenses are manufactured in Asia and have not gone through the strict safety testing and quality control that are required by the FDA. Another concern is that many teenagers swap these lenses casually like they are fashion accessories, resulting in increased eye infections.
I love Halloween and while crazy contacts can be fun they aren’t worth risking your vision. If you want cosmetic contact lenses, be sure to be professionally fitted with contacts that have been FDA approved, wear them only as directed, disinfect them after each use and get regular follow-up care. Immediately remove contact lenses any time something doesn’t seem right. If in doubt, take them out. If it doesn’t get better right away, seek the care of a professional eyecare provider. Red eyes are only cool on Halloween.
Speaking of Halloween, here’s a link for kids to design their own pumpkin online and if you want some serious pumpkin carving inspiration, check out these incredible pumpkins at the pumpkingutter.com . This is my attempt at the eyeball.