Americans might be haunted with scary eye infections long after Halloween if they wear costume contact lenses without a prescription, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The agency notes out of the 45 million Americans who wear contact lenses, it’s difficult to estimate approximately how many actually wear decorative contact lenses, but the number always increases around Halloween, with highest demand often in the demographic at most risk for infectious complications, according to a recent report.
The CDC advises to only purchase contact lenses from an eye doctor, because when decorative contact lens are sold without a valid prescription and the proper medical education, there is a high risk of contact-related eye complications.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies contact lenses as medical devices, which means they pose a moderate health risk without proper medical supervision from an eye doctor, warning that any website selling costume contact lens without a prescription is breaking the law.
According to a recent article about the safety concerns of costume contact lens, Dr. Phillip Yuhas, an assistant professor of optometry at Ohio State University, says “a contact lens is a piece of plastic that covers the eye and can prevent oxygen from reaching its front surface. New blood vessel growth, redness, watering and pain are all signs and symptoms that an eye is starved for oxygen.”
Without the proper education or valid prescription, the lens may not completely fit correctly, leaving the outer layer of the eye more susceptible to scratches or ulcers, which can cause long-term scarring and permanent vision loss, according to the CDC.
The agency notes between 40%-90% of contact lens wearers do not properly follow the routine care instructions and reported almost everyone who wears them admitted to at least one high-risk behavior in their hygiene routine that increased the risk of an eye infection or inflammation.
Yuhas noted: “Of those risky behaviors, sleeping in your contact lenses is perhaps the most dangerous. In fact, it puts you at a high risk of getting an infection in your cornea, the clear dome that covers the front of the eye.”
This painful eye condition is called keratitis, which sometimes leads to bacterial, viral or parasitic infections, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology noted that cosmetic contacts which people often wear during Halloween to change the color of their eyes contain certain chemicals that can be toxic to the eyes, sometimes leading to vision loss.
Yuhas advised most contact lenses, however, are generally safe for patients who wear them as directed.
Click on this CDC link for tips on proper costume contact lens practices.