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Florida Eye Doctors Warn: Be Scared of Costume Contacts
The dangerous health effects of non-prescribed, decorative (and also illegal) contact lenses bring a whole new meaning to the word scary, says a Miami ophthalmologist. Eye scratches, sores, infections and even blindness are a high price to pay to enhance a costume, she says.
"I hate to think of all the young people who might be buying these non-prescription contact lenses on Halloween, only to end up with an infection that can ruin their sight forever,” says Laura B. Sims, MD, a board member of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology (FSO). “There’s a reason they were outlawed in this country nine years ago."
Despite the 2005 law that classified all contact lenses as medical devices and restricted their distribution to licensed eye care professionals, effectively banning sales of non-prescription contact lenses, these items remain available on the internet, in convenience stores and at flea markets.
If a costume seeker insists that colorful contact lenses complete his or her look, an eye examination and prescription from a licensed eye care professional, such as an ophthalmologist or optometrist, is necessary, she says. Other safety considerations recommended by the FSO and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) include:
- Don't fall victim to false advertising claims and lenses labeled as "one size fits all" or "no need to see an eye specialist." Even for those with perfect vision, an eye exam and prescription are mandatory to fit the right size contacts.
- Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the lenses. Contacts that are left in for too long or that aren't properly cleaned and disinfected can significantly increase the risk of an eye infection.
- Never share contact lenses with another person or wear expired lenses.
- If you notice redness, swelling, excessive discharge, pain or discomfort from wearing contact lenses, remove the lenses and seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist. Eye infections such as keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) can quickly become serious and cause blindness, if left untreated.
Dr. Sims says the FSO also reminds parents to remember the importance of children having clear visibility through their costumes. "A distracted driver, combined with a child whose vision is impaired by a poorly designed mask could be disastrous. Good costume choices will keep Halloween safe and fun."
About the Florida Society of Ophthalmology
The Florida Society of Ophthalmology is the state's leading advocate for providing Floridians the highest standard of eye care. The FSO's mission is to promote and protect the medical specialty of ophthalmology through active participation in legislative advocacy and providing continuing medical education and responsible information to its members, physicians and the citizens of Florida.
About Laura B. Sims, MD, Ophthalmologist
Dr. Laura B Sims is an ophthalmologist in Miami, Florida. She received her medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Sims completed a National Institute of Health-Research Fellowship and Ophthalmology residency at Kresge Eye Institute in Detroit, Michigan. She serves on the Board of Admissions for the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine at Florida International University and as the public relations chair for the Florida Society of Ophthalmology.