Friday, October 26, 2012

Are Colored Contacts Part of Your Halloween Costume?

Halloween is our biggest excuse to play dress-up and be as silly, horrifying, and over-the-top as we want. While some wear pre-made, out of the package costumes, others carefully craft their garments, and take accessories very seriously. From bullet wounds to zombie makeup and colored contact lenses, the devil is in the details for some of us. While decorative and colored contact lenses are primarily non-corrective, they are still considered medical devices by the FDA. They are not, as some might advertise, a “cosmetic,” which can freely be sold in stores or over the internet. But just like you need to be vigilant about using non-toxic body paint, you should also beware of non-prescription decorative or colored contact lenses. These lenses can transform your eyes into that of a cat, a werewolf, or a vampire, or make your brown eyes blue. But these lenses can do major harm if not fitted and used properly, even for a few short hours. Decorative contact lenses should be fitted and prescribed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. They are not, as the FDA describes them, “one size fits all.” For someone not used to wearing contacts, buying a pair that are a poor fit can cause eye damage; some of which could even be long-lasting or permanent. Damage can include, scratches to the cornea, corneal infection, conjunctivitis, decreased vision, and even blindness. Also, there are care procedures for these decorative lenses, just as there are for regular ones. Cleaning and disinfecting are among them, but also making sure they are removed daily is of utmost importance. Late-night Halloween parties mean you may roll into bed without removing the lenses, and you could wake up with them adhered to your eyeball and difficult to remove without causing harm-and pain! The FDA is aware that many places illegally sell decorative contact lenses to consumers without valid prescriptions for as little as $20. You should never buy lenses from street vendors, salons or beauty supply, stores, boutiques, flea markets, novelty stores, Halloween stores, convenience stores or the internet (unless the site requires a prescription). These are not authorized distributors of contact lenses, which are prescription devices by federal law. So if your costume calls for color contacts, there are a few simple steps that you can take in order to keep your eyes healthy. First, get an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist), even if you feel your vision is perfect. Get a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and an expiration date. Whether you go in person or shop online, buy the lenses from a seller that requires you to provide a prescription. Follow these simple steps and have spooky (yet safe) eyes this Halloween!