Why you should be afraid - very afraid - of non-prescription costume contact lenses for Halloween

WHAT:  With Halloween fast approaching, millions of Americans are seeking to spice up their Halloween costumes with accessories such as facial masks, special makeup, and costume contact lenses. However, wearing non-prescription contact lenses can result in a painful eye injury or even permanent damage to vision.

Dr. Sandy T. Feldman, an ophthalmologist and the Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center in San Diego, warns Halloween revelers of the dangers of wearing non-prescription costume contact lenses. Many of these products - which can give the appearance of tiger eyes, orange eyes, checkered pupils, and numerous other spooky effects - are not sterile, poorly fit the eye, and are often sold illegally.

"Most people who purchase costume contacts don’t have a clue about the dangers they can pose, such as eye infections, corneal abrasions, and even blindness,” said Dr. Feldman. "That’s why the Federal Drug Administration regulates the sale of all contact lenses, to prevent serious damage that non-prescription lenses can cause if they don’t fit right or aren’t properly cleaned or disinfected. Contact lenses need to be cleaned daily."

The FDA banned the sale of all non-prescription contact lenses ten years ago, classifying all contact lenses as medical devices and allowing only licensed eye care professionals to distribute and prescribe them to patients.

For anyone who plans to wear a Halloween costume this year that requires decorative lenses, a face mask, or special makeup, Dr. Feldman offers the following advice:

Consult a professional: When purchasing costume contact lenses, it is best to consult first with an eye care professional, such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Any costume lenses sold without a prescription are illegal. Your eye doctor can write a prescription and order the lenses for you, or you can purchase the lenses yourself from a reputable site online.

Get an eye exam: An eye exam is important in order to ensure that the contact lenses fit properly and are appropriate for the user. “One size fits all” does not apply when it comes to contact lenses.

Follow proper care instructions: Be sure to follow the specific instructions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing your lenses. Poorly fitted or unsterilized contacts that are left in for even a short time can cause a corneal ulcer (infection), a corneal abrasion (scratch), or even damage your vision permanently.

Be aware of unusual symptoms: When wearing contact lenses, be aware of any unusual or excessive discharge, redness, swelling, or discomfort. If you experience any of these problems, remove the lenses immediately and consult an eye care professional.

Check the fit of face masks: Make sure the eyeholes are large enough that they don’t restrict vision. This is especially important with young children, who may not see oncoming cars.

Do a trial run with costume makeup: Chemicals in costume makeup can irritate the skin and eyes, so be sure to do a small test patch of any product on your hand well before the big night.

WHO: Sandy T. Feldman, MD - Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center in San Diego - can speak about how to avoid damaging the eyes (and prevent a scary trip to the emergency room on Halloween night). Dr. Feldman is a San Diego-based leader in ophthalmology and one of the nation’s top 15 Lasik eye surgeons.

CONTACT: I am happy to arrange an interview with Dr. Feldman to discuss Halloween-related topics or any other story angles related to eyes and healthy vision. Please contact Diana Solstesz at [email protected] or 818-618-5634.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS: Sandy T. Feldman, MD is the Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center - voted best LASIK center in San Diego by CityBeat magazine in 2013 - and has successfully performed more than 20,000 refractive procedures. Her many honors and awards include “Top Doc San Diego” and the Goldline Award, an honor granted to only 10 laser eye care providers in the U.S. each year, and she has been profiled in Forbes, Newsweek, and other respected publications. Dr. Feldman is a fellow of the prestigious American College of Ophthalmic Surgeons and a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.