Oct 17, 2018 12:00 AM

Don’t let a bad Halloween costume decision haunt you for life. It could happen if you’re looking to disguise your eyes with freaky colored contact lenses without a prescription. Before you go down that road, here’s what you should know.

Why Prescription Only?

Contact lenses of any type are medical devices that sit directly on the cornea (the clear dome of tissue over the iris—the part of the eye that gives you your eye color). Because of the risk of bacterial infections and other potential problems from poorly fitting or contaminated lenses, you should never buy them without a valid contact lens prescription from a licensed eye care practitioner. In fact, it’s actually illegal to buy contact lenses without one. Even if you don’t need any vision correction – you still need a prescription for decorative lenses that will be a good fit.  

Vendors who sell cosmetic or special-effect lenses as a type of accessory or jewelry without asking for a prescription are breaking the law and endangering your eyesight.

Advice from an eye doctor

“The lenses need to fit correctly on your cornea; otherwise, they can be dangerous,” says David Meyer, OD, Director of Contact Lens Services at the John A. Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah. “Any time you place something in your eye you are risking infection, or injury, so as a general rule, I discourage the use of cosmetic lenses altogether. Even if a patient really wants them and is willing to get a proper fitting and accurate prescription, I am only okay with them being worn temporarily.”

FDA Website

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually has a website where you can learn more and report the illegal selling of these lenses.

They also warn against anime or circle lenses, saying “don’t buy them and don’t expect your doctor to prescribe them.” These bigger-than-normal lenses that give the wearer a wide-eyed, doll-like look have not been cleared by the FDA.

A poor contact lens fit can cause serious eye damage, including:

  • scratches on the cornea
  • corneal infection (an ulcer or sore on the cornea)
  • conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • decreased vision
  • blindness

According to the FDA, you should never buy lenses from:

  • street vendors
  • salons or beauty supply stores
  • boutiques
  • flea markets
  • novelty stores
  • Halloween stores
  • record or video stores
  • convenience stores
  • beach shops
  • Internet sites that do not require a prescription

When wearing any contact lenses, follow care and cleaning instructions thoroughly. Make sure they are disinfected before placing them in your eye and make sure you are placing them in your eye with clean hands. If the lenses come out of your eyes, always clean them before putting them back in. Be sure to only clean your lenses with a solution designed for this purpose. “Cleaning” them with water – or in your mouth – could lead to big problems.

If your eyes start burning or itching while wearing your lenses, take them out immediately. See your eye doctor if you notice any pain, blurry vision, or discharge.

You really don’t want one night in costume to turn into a lifelong horror.


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