This week’s blog on costume contact lenses has been contributed by Dr Sandra Fiorentini, External and Dry Eye Disease, Eye Allergies, Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai
Coloured Contact Lenses for Halloween?
Cosmetic or decorative contact lenses are any type of contact lenses that change the appearance of your eyes. They include coloured contacts, fashion lenses and lenses that can make your eyes look like vampires, animals or other characters.
Websites often advertise coloured contacts as if they were cosmetics, fashion accessories or toys and their targets are often teens and young adults.
The myth: there is no such thing as a universal size contact lens that fits everyone (and you certainly do need to see an eye specialist for a fitting).
Why are costume contact lenses not a good option?
Contact lenses are not ready-to-wear fashion accessories, they are medical devices fitted to one of the most vital and fragile organs of the body and so of course it takes a medical professional to prescribe them.
This is because non-prescription costume contacts can cause injuries through abrasions and ulcers on the transparent front part of the eyes and if the ulcers get infected, in some cases this can lead to permanent vision loss.
Any ulcer leaves a scar and even good control of the infection with the right antibiotic treatment working successfully, there will still be a scar which will affect the transparency needed to be able to see. If the opacity is in the central part of the vision, the patient will require a corneal transplant to recover the vision.
One study found that wearing costume contact lenses significantly increased the risk of developing keratitis – a potentially sight threatening infection that causes an ulcer on the eye – compared to people wearing corrective lenses. Among those costume lens wearers who went on to develop the infection, 60 per cent had some permanent loss of vision.
Novelty products, like circle lenses, are not FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) approved. Circle lenses can be particularly harmful, because the lens covers more of the eye than regular corrective lenses, which makes it very difficult for essential oxygen to get through to the eye.
Moreover, because the designs painted on costume contacts make the lenses thicker and less permeable, it is even harder for oxygen to get through the lens to the eye.
If you want your Halloween look to include cat, zombie or glow-in-the-dark eyes, or if you’d like to use lenses to change your eye colour or appearance, get your costume contact lenses prescribed by an eye care professional. It is essential that contact lenses are fitted professionally and this means that a personalised prescription (after an eye examination) is crucial.
In addition, lenses that are not properly fitted to your eye may scratch the eye or cause blood vessels to grow into the cornea. Neglecting this vital part of the process and buying lenses off the shelf can lead to eye problems – including serious, long-term conditions.
What happens in an eye examination?
During an eye exam, eye care professionals – such as ophthalmologists or optometrists – will:
- Measure your eyes in order to properly fit contacts.
- Assess whether or not you are a good candidate for contacts. Unsuitable candidates include people with allergies and infections, or those who may be regularly exposed to environments with potential irritants such as smoke or dust, and people who are unable for some reason to manage their lenses properly through correct handling and care.
- Guide you on how to use and care properly for lenses. This is very important because dirty lenses or those that are not properly disinfected can cause eye infections.
- Help you understand how long you can wear costume lenses. The first rule is that you should never sleep in them.
Unfortunately, cosmetic contact lenses are still being sold in shops and via online retailers to customers who are unaware that wearing these devices can result in serious eye injuries.
“People have no idea about the risks and this is the main reason we keep receiving requests for consultations every year from many patients with corneal damage related to these contact lenses, especially during Halloween. As an ophthalmologist, I have a responsibility to help educate the population on this issue in order to minimise the potentially serious effects on vision,” said Dr. Sandra Fiorentini.