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Warning over Halloween contact lenses

30th October 2012

US eye experts have warned that decorative contact lenses of the kind sometimes sold with fancy dress costumes for Halloween could damage the eyes, and even affect vision.

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Fancy dress contact lenses are popular in the United States, where they are sold as theatrical "eyes" to match costumes for witches, goblins, ghosts and other Halloween favourites.

But the American Optometric Association (AOA) has warned that contact lenses bought without a prescription from a registered doctor are illegal.

According to a statement issued ahead of Halloween, when spooky costumes are de rigueur for trick or treating and fancy dress parties, non-prescription decorative contact lenses can cause serious eye infections and possibly even cause permanent loss of vision.

According to AOA chairperson Randall Fuerst, there is no such thing as a 'one-size-fits-all' contact lens.

Fuerst said that consumers who buy lenses without a prescription or without consultation from an eye doctor are at risk of serious bacterial eye infections.

Allergic reactions and scratches to the surface of the cornea are also a possibility, he warned, adding that such damage carries with it the potential for irreversible sight loss.

A survey carried out by the AOA earlier this year found that 18% of US residents had used the lenses, and nearly one third of those said they had bought the lenses without a prescription or without a consultation from an optometrist.

The lenses are available to buy online, and also at convenience stores, gift, costume and joke shops and beauty salons in the US, the AOA said.

Contact lenses need to be carefully fitted to an individual following a thorough medical eye and vision test, and the patient must be taught how to care for them correctly.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), decorative contact lenses are only intended to change the appearance of the eyes, and do not correct vision.

It warns consumers that such lenses are regulated by the FDA as medical devices, and should never be bought without a prescription.

Illegal contact lenses can cut or scratch the eyeball, cause allergic reactions resulting in itchy or red eyes, and lead to loss of vision, infection and even blindness.

It said anyone who wears any kind of contact lenses should be aware of the signs of a possible eye infection, including redness or pain the eye that lasts longer than a short time, or decreased acuity of vision.

Anyone with such symptoms should see an optometrist or an ophthalmologist immediately, who are trained to examine your eyes properly, and who can prescribe correctly fitting lenses.

It warns that contact lenses, like toothbrushes and other intimate personal items, should never be shared.


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