They can make your eyes look like alien slits, hypnotic spirals, or red-hot fire. But the American Optometric Association (AOA) says specialty contact lenses can also cause infections that can permanently damage your eyes or even cause blindness.
Decorative contact lenses are available from many sources, especially around Halloween. You can find them at flea markets, on the internet, at beauty salons, and even convenience stores. They are often marketed as fashion accessories or as elements of Halloween costumes. But regardless of the source, any contact lens that is going to be inserted in your eye needs to be prescribed by a licensed optometrist and needs to be correctly fitted.
Doctor of Optometry Art Epstein, former chairman of the AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section, says, “Buying contact lenses without a prescription can pose serious risk to your sight or eye health. Consumers purchasing these lenses from untrained individuals may receive poorly fitted or “demo” lenses and little to no instruction in proper lens care and cleaning.”
When you go to an eye doctor to be fitted for contact lenses, your eyes will be checked to make sure contacts are safe for your eyes and that you don’t have any eye conditions that could be made worse by wearing them. Your eye care professional will also teach you the proper way to care for your lenses, including how to clean them and how to get them in and out of your eyes safely. Poorly fitted contacts can scratch the cornea of the eye, which can cause ongoing or even permanent damage. Other risks include conjunctivitis or pink eye, swelling, allergic reactions, reduced vision, glare, and other general eye and vision impairments.
Impaired vision is a serious concern for all types of Halloween costumes, especially for children and teens. Specialty contact lenses can affect the ability to see clearly, as can masks and other costume elements that block side or downward vision. Risks include tripping over unseen obstacles and reduced awareness of traffic and other hazards. Consider using face paint or makeup instead of masks to maintain good vision.