FDA warns against using 'risky' colored contact lenses for Halloween

Korin Miller

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a warning for Halloween fans: Don’t use decorative contact lenses unless you buy them from your doctor.

Decorative contact lenses are actually medical devices, the FDA explains, and even though they’re readily available at beauty supply stores and Halloween suppliers, you should always have a prescription to wear them.

Wearing these lenses is “risky” and can cause “serious damage” to your eyes if you get them without a prescription or don’t use them correctly, the FDA warns. The agency cites the risks of a cut or scratch on the top layer of your eyeball, allergic reactions, decreased vision, infections, and even blindness.

“Don’t use these,” Christopher J. Rapuano, MD, chief of the Wills Eye Hospital Cornea Service, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Contacts need to be properly fitted by an official contact lens fitter for them to be used as safely as possible. Not having a proper fit makes the chances of complications go up significantly.”

Not only can a poor fit be an issue, but also many of these lenses are made of cheap material, he says. “The contacts can chip and come off in the eye. These contacts are often not as safe as normal contacts for vision.”

(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Rapuano recommends that both kids and adults avoid these lenses — even if you’ve had no issues with them in the past. “I’m sure that some people wear them and do just fine, but it’s playing with fire,” he says. “At some point, you’re going to get burned.” That can range from a “mild scratch” that’s treated pretty easily to a severe ulcer that’s infected with bacteria, fungus, or a parasite, he says. “The results are potentially devastating for the eye,” he adds.

For the record, the FDA is fine with people wearing decorative lenses provided they’re purchased with a prescription and from your eye doctor or a company that sells FDA-cleared or approved contact lenses. That said, you should take a hard pass on the inexpensive ones available at your local drugstore or novelty store.

As Jennifer Fogt, a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and an associate professor in the College of Optometry at the Ohio State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “One party is not worth the risks.”

She adds, “I am happy to fit my patients in safe costume contact lenses that are FDA-approved devices. I recommend that we start early so we have time to order lenses and evaluate the fit of the lenses on the eye and to make sure that the colored portions of the lenses do not obstruct the pupil and cause poor vision. If they are fit by an eye doctor, you can safely wear these lenses.”

However, if you do decide to disregard medical advice and wear these lenses, definitely don’t fall asleep in them. “Overnight wear increases the risk of problems,” Rapuano says.

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