Halloween costumes: Decorative contact lenses can pose danger

N1303P30003HDecorative contact lenses might complete your Halloween costume, but they also can pose a danger to your eyes.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness, and the Ohio Optical Dispensers Board are warning consumers about the dangers of wearing decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription.

It is illegal for anyone to dispense or sell contact lenses without a current, valid prescription, according to a news release. Even if the lenses are cosmetic or non-correcting, they still are classified as medical devices and must be purchased with a prescription.

“It’s important people understand the risk they’re taking when they wear contacts without a prescription,” DeWine said in the release. “Wearing non-prescription contacts just once, like during Halloween, can still cause serious damage. I encourage consumers to buy all contacts, including decorative ones, from a licensed eye care professional. Adding a special effect to your Halloween costume can be fun, but it is not worth risking your eyesight.”

The Ohio Optical Dispensers Board warns that cosmetic contacts may be sold illegally online — including on Craigslist or Facebook — or in costume stores, tattoo parlors, beauty supply stores, truck stops, wig shops, gas stations, convenience stores or thrift stores.

Prevent Blindness offers the following safety tips regarding cosmetic contact lenses:

• Always visit a licensed eye care professional to be fitted for cosmetic contact lenses.

• Never buy contact lenses without a prescription.

• Always clean and disinfect contact lenses according to instructions.

• Always use water-soluble cosmetics or those labeled safe for use with contact lenses. Do not apply skin creams or moisturizers too close to the eyes.

• Never wear opaque lenses if you have any problems with night vision.

• Never share or trade your contact lenses with anyone.

• Seek medical attention right away and remove your contact lenses if your eyes are red or have ongoing pain or discharge. Be watchful about your children’s or teens’ appearance. If they are wearing cosmetic contacts, ask where they obtained them.

“It may be tempting to create a unique look for Halloween or other social events by changing the look of your eyes. But beware that using cosmetic contact lenses accessed without a prescription from an eye doctor or borrowed from someone else is asking for trouble. Infections, scarring and even blindness can result,” said Sherry Williams, president and CEO of the Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness.

The nonprofit group has a dedicated webpage with free information at www.preventblindness.org/wearing-contact-lenses.

“I’ve seen many young patients who were not aware of the dangers of these products and are now living with permanent vision loss,” said Dr. Thomas L. Steinemann, professor of Ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University/MetroHealth Medical Center and a Prevent Blindness volunteer. “Even if the lenses are cosmetic or non-correcting, they are still classified as medical devices and should only be prescribed by an eye care professional.”

DeWine encourages Ohioans to report illegal sales of contact lenses to the Ohio Optical Dispensers Board at 614-466-9709.

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