Ever wondered what those cool cat-eye contacts are doing to your eyes? If you got them without a prescription, watch out. Wearing colored contacts without a prescription can cause lasting damage to your eyes, especially if they were cheap. Learn more about the risks associated with colored contacts below, so you can enjoy a safe and happy Halloween!
The Dangers of Non-Prescription Contacts
Contact lenses made to change one’s appearance go by many names: Cosmetic, theatrical, Halloween, circle, decorative, colored, costume, or cosplay contact lenses. What they all have in common is that they aren’t prescription. While it’s illegal to sell colored contact lenses without a prescription, authorities rarely enforce the law, which means they’re easily accessible even though they shouldn’t be. A lack of prescription means the lens will probably not fit correctly, and will probably not permit tear exchange and movement of the eye. This can lead to dry eye and a number of other complications.
Risks of Unlicensed Manufacturing
Non-medical colored contact lenses are also often produced by unlicensed manufacturers, which tend to use cheap, inferior plastic and toxic materials, such as lead (a substance often used in lens coloring), which can get absorbed through the eyes into the bloodstream. Illegal contact lenses may also contain high levels of bacteria from unsanitary packaging, shipping, and storage conditions. Since there is no medical oversight involved in their creation or distribution, there’s no telling what really is in a non-prescription colored contact.
Complications Associated with Non-Prescription Contacts
Purchasing any kind of contact lenses without a prescription can result in a variety of eye complications, such as corneal abrasions, eye sores, conjunctivitis, eye infections, and vision impairment. As mentioned earlier, decorative lenses are unlikely to fit properly, leaving the eye more susceptible to scratches on the outer layer of the eye, or ulcers (an open sore) on the corneas. The result of a scratch or sore can be scarring, infection, and permanent vision reduction or loss. Bacterial infections can be extremely rapid, and can sometimes cause ulcers or blindness within as little as 24 hours if not promptly diagnosed and treated.
How to Wear Colored Contacts Safely
In summary, when you are purchasing contacts to complete your Halloween costume, remember that contact lenses are not cosmetics or decorative merchandise. They are medical devices that should be regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Places that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them over-the-counter, without a prescription, are breaking the law. If the lenses they sold were truly safe, they would not have to do so.
If you are determined to wear colored contacts, you aren’t entirely out of options. First, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) who can measure each eye to properly fit the lenses. Once you have a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and an expiration date, buy the lenses from a seller that requires you to provide them. Then, check in with your optometrist so he or she can evaluate how your eye responds to contact lens wear.
From all of us at Raleigh Eye Center, have a safe and happy Halloween!
To schedule an appointment at our Raleigh eye doctor clinic, click here.