Cosmetic contact lenses might seem like the perfect way to enhance your Halloween costume this year, but the American Academy of Ophthalmology is warning consumers that the nonprescription lenses could do serious damage to your eyes. Although selling such lenses without a prescription is actually illegal, cosmetic lenses can still be found in stores and online. They are dangerous because they could cause corneal abrasions (scratches on the cornea, which covers the iris and pupil) and ulcers on the eye, which can then lead to infection (keratitis). If this happens, the AAO warns that corneal transplants and other eye surgeries might become necessary to prevent blindness."What happens to people's eyes after just one evening of wearing non-prescription costume contact lenses is tragic," Thomas Steinemann, M.D., an AAO spokesperson and professor of ophthalmology at MetroHealth Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University, said in a statement. "It all could have been avoided if these patients just took a little extra time to obtain a prescription and only wore FDA-approved lenses. I understand how tempting it is to dress up your eyes on Halloween without a prescription and using over-the-counter lenses, but people should not let one night of fun ruin their vision for a lifetime." Contact lenses should only be worn if they are FDA-approved and prescribed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Huffington Post, Oct. 21, 2013
Even if your contacts are "extended wear", and you have been told that it is ok to sleep in them, you should know that sleeping in your contacts increases your chances of developing a serious eye infection 10 fold. Bacterial keratitis can cause scarring in the front part of the eye or lead to blindness.
When used properly, contact lenses are great instruments for vision. Just remember to take good care of them and your eyes:
- always clean contacts every night
- replace contacts as scheduled
- do not get in a swimming pool or sauna while wearing your contacts
- if your eye gets red, uncomfortable or painful, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.
Do you have questions regarding your contact lenses? If so, the following website may be beneficial to you. It is divided into five sections.
Section one addresses questions about replacement schedules and what could happen if they are not followed. It also discusses what organisms are most dangerious to the eye and how to avoid complicaitons from them.
Section two clarifies the importance of rubbing lenses after removal, when to discard solutions, what lubricants are okay to use with contact lenses, and how to properly store lenses that are used on occasion.
Section three emphasizes the proper care of cases. Cases should be replaced every three months.
Section four describes different environments that may or may not be optimal for contact lens wear. The effects of showering, swimming, and sleeping while wearing contacts are discussed.
Section five addresses the issue of purchasing lenses on the internet or in drug stores.
Drs. Toosi, Adams, Garcia and Pennington