It’s no scare tactic: wearing non-prescription contacts can lead to permanent vision loss.
Wearing fashion contact lenses to enhance your Halloween costume’s fear factor may seem like a fun idea, but these non-prescription lenses can cause something far more terrifying — blindness.
Several varieties of over-the-counter decorative lenses can cause abrasions on the cornea, which could potentially become infected, says Dr. Guillermo Amescua, an ophthalmology expert at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. In addition, a 2015 study, conducted by Wolters Kluwer, found that many contain chemicals that could also cause infections. The chemicals may come from colorants used to tint and create playful patterns on the lenses. Chlorine was found in three types of non-prescription costume contact lenses, and iron was found on four pairs of lenses.
While it is illegal to sell non-prescription contact lenses, they can still be easily purchased at many places such as costume shops, beauty supply stores, and online. During the Halloween season, these lenses are often falsely advertised as “one-size-fits-all” and “no prescription necessary.”
“Contact lenses worn without a doctor’s prescription greatly increase the possibility of serious complications," says Dr. Amescua. "These lenses may cause injuries such as cuts and open sores in the cornea, as well as bacterial, parasitic, or fungal infections that are difficult to treat, and which could lead to corneal scarring and vision loss.”
Additional risks include conjunctivitis (pink eye), swelling of the eye (corneal edema), sensitivity to light and allergic reactions. If contacts are not professionally fitted to your eye, they can scratch the clear front window of the eye, which is called a corneal abrasion. Whether from a corneal scratch or infection, wearing non-prescription contacts can lead to decreased vision.