Decorative tinted contact lenses will be popular accessories this Halloween. Non-prescription contacts come in such colors as white zombie, red vampire and “sexy sapphire.” They are sold in beauty shops, costume stores and over the Internet.
But without a prescription and worn improperly, these contacts could cause severe eye damage. Contact lenses should never be worn without a prescription from a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist. Indeed, it is against the law to sell decorative contact lenses without a prescription.
Many buyers are teenagers and young adults. When purchased without a prescription, these lenses may not be fitted properly, and buyers usually do not receive proper instruction on how to care for and wear contacts. Users might, for example, use the wrong solution, share with a friend, wear improperly, fail to disinfect or use tap water rather than contact lens solution.
Improper use can cause inflammation and infections, making eyes red and painful. Even when these complications are treated, there’s still a risk that scar tissue could permanently impair vision and require a corneal transplant.
And even when worn for a relatively short period of time, such as during a Halloween party, decorative contact lenses can damage eyes if not used properly. They may seem like a lot of fun, but they’re not worth the risk. Never wear a contact lens, whether for vision correction or for decoration, without a prescription.
Wearing contacts generally is safe, provided wearers have a prescription, follow instructions and take proper care of their contacts. But improper care or poor hygiene can result in damaged eyes.
Wearers can protect their sight with clean and safe handling of contact lenses. Here are some excellent recommendations from the American Optometric Association:
• Always wash your hands before handling contact lenses.
• Carefully and regularly clean contact lenses, as directed. Rub the contact lenses with fingers and rinse thoroughly before soaking lenses overnight in sufficient multipurpose solution to completely cover the lens.
• Store lenses in the proper lens storage case and replace the case at a minimum of every three months. Clean the case after each use, and keep it open and dry between cleanings.
• Use only products recommended by your optometrist to clean and disinfect your lenses. Saline solution and rewetting drops are not designed to disinfect lenses.
• Never re-use old solution. Contact lens solution must be changed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, even if the lenses are not used daily.
• Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule.
• Remove contact lenses before swimming or entering a hot tub.
• See your eye doctor for your regularly scheduled contact lens and eye examination.
Peter Russo is a doctor of optometry and director of the Contact Lens Program at Loyola University Medical Center