Eye Doctors Warn: Halloween Contact Lenses Are Scary

3 min read  |  October 24, 2023  | 

Wearing fashion contact lenses to enhance your Halloween costume’s fear factor may seem fun. But these non-prescription lenses can cause something far more terrifying: blindness. It’s no scare tactic. Wearing over-the-counter contacts can lead to permanent vision loss.

Contact lenses are not “one size fits all.”

The dome-shaped, outermost layer of your eye is called the cornea. A poorly fitted contact lens can damage the cornea’s protective layer of tissue and cause infection. To avoid stress on this delicate surface and allow the cornea to get proper oxygenation, have an ophthalmic professional fit your contact lenses to the specific dimensions of your eye. 

“Just like other parts of the body, our eyes vary in shape and size from person to person,” says Jaime David Martinez, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, part of the University of Miami Health System. “With normal prescription contact lenses, your eye doctor takes detailed measurements of your eyes to ensure that your contact lenses fit properly.”

What if you wear non-prescription contacts?

Poorly fitting, over-the-counter, decorative contact lenses increase the risk of cutting or scratching your eye. If your cornea gets an abrasion, it may develop into an eye infection, leading to permanent vision loss. 

“In addition, studies on non-FDA-approved decorative/colored contact lenses (of which there are many) have found harmful chemical components, such as chlorine, in the colored/decorative portion of the contact lens. This can be toxic to your eyes and lead to vision loss,” Dr. Martinez says.

Wearing non-prescription contacts can also lead to:

“The risk of eye infection is higher in non-prescription, ‘fashion’ contact lenses (compared to prescription lenses) due to the lack of regulation on sterility and structural integrity,” Dr. Martinez says. “It is important to recognize that the FDA provides manufacturers, distributors and retailers with detailed instructions on the manufacturing and distribution of their products and ensures adequate regulation processes. Non-prescription ‘fashion’ contact lenses are not subject to these rigors, negatively impacting patient safety. A study on 285 decorative, non-corrective, non-FDA-approved contact lenses found that 60% of the counterfeit lenses tested positive for microbial contamination.”

While selling non-prescription contact lenses is illegal, over-the-counter “fashion” contacts can still be easily purchased at Halloween costume shops, beauty supply stores and online. Many of these lenses are falsely advertised as “no prescription necessary” and “one size fits most.”

Wearing over-the-counter contacts for just one night can damage your eyesight. 

“Because over-the-counter decorative contact lenses are not professionally assessed and fit to the shape of your eyes, the risk of a corneal abrasion and infection — regardless of the duration of wear — persists,” he says.

Protect your eyes in style with this alternative.

Many companies that sell prescription contact lenses now sell FDA-approved colored/decorative contacts that can be appropriately sized and fitted to the shape of your eye.

“Regardless of the brand, the most important step prior to using decorative contact lenses is to contact your local eye doctor to ensure a proper fit and use of FDA-approved lenses,” says Dr. Martinez.

Dana Kantrowitz is a contributing writer for UHealth’s news service.

Originally published on: October 23, 2020

Tags: decorative contacts, eye care in Miami, eye infections, Halloween costume contacts

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