Nothing puts on the finishing touch to your Halloween costume like a pair of cosmetic contact lenses. But, beware of buying your contacts from the same costume shop you bought your mask!
I lived in Manhattan for 8 years and the Halloween parade down in the Village is legendary. You see the best costumes and everyone gets dressed up. That was the first time I saw someone in a costume contact lens – it was a cat eye and I thought it was cool. I was an ophthalmology resident at the time, and I asked the girl where she got them “Oh, from the costume shop down on 14th Street”, she answered. Yowser! I couldn’t believe someone would put something in their eye that they bought at a pop up Halloween store! That was about 13 years ago and now people can buy contact lenses online, which makes the dangers even more widespread.
Of course, we all want to have the best costumes for Halloween. And, the cosmetic contacts add a little something extra – Walking Dead zombie with the crazy eyes; vampire with red rimmed iris, or cat eyes – all make for an exceptional outfit.
The problem is that these kind of lenses require the same fitting and care as a regular contact lens. People mistakenly believe that because it’s just for one night, that somehow these contacts do not need to be as safe, or fit as well, which is far from the truth. Ten hours is more than enough time for bacteria to grow and for a serious, vision threatening infection to occur. And, just because you can buy them online or in a novelty shop does not mean that they are.
Remember, all contact lenses are medical devices and should be approved by the FDA. In fact, shops which sell non-FDA approved lenses or do so without requiring a prescription from your eye doctor are conducting business illegally can receive stiff fines, of up to $11,000. Any place that sells contact lenses should ask you for a prescription. The lenses pictured above are sold in our clinic and are FDA approved material. The FDA has issued warnings in the past about the dangers of wearing Halloween contacts.
Tips for a Safe Halloween with your costume lenses:
1. Have your eyes examined by a licensed eye care professional.
They can measure your eyes appropriately and discuss proper care of contacts. This is especially important for those of us (like me) who don’t wear glasses or contacts regularly. We are just not as skilled at inserting or removing contact lenses and that is important at preventing scratches on the cornea.
2. Get a valid contact lens prescription which includes power, brand type, base curve measurements and expiration date.
3. Buy lenses from an eye care professional or vendor who requires a prescription.
4. Follow directions for proper cleaning and care of contact lenses.
5. Never share your contact lenses.
This was the worst case I saw in NYC. A 14 year old girl shared contacts with her friend and developed a terrible corneal ulcer and became blind in one eye from it. It seems innocouus, but it is not just another part of your costume!
6. Maintain proper follow-up appointments with your eye doctor.
Following these simple guidelines, should allow you to have a safe and fun Halloween!