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Protect your vision by using caution when wearing costume contact lenses

Decorative contact lenses worn by an Anime Evolution 2009 participant
Decorative contact lenses worn by an Anime Evolution 2009 participant
David K K (cc-by-sa-2.0)

Halloween is just a few hours away and many Indianapolis area residents are putting the final touches on their costumes in preparation of the celebration. Some individuals may be thinking about adding one last detail in the form of decorative contact lenses. The American Academy of Ophthalmology would like these people to think again before they put their eyes at risk for serious damage.

The dangers of costume contact lenses
While decorative contact lenses are generally safe in themselves, the problems caused by them stem from improper use by the wearer. Many consumers do not realize costume contacts require proper fitting by a professional, as well as guidance on materials and usage based on medical history and personal physical characteristics. Despite the claims made on some packages, there is no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to contact lenses.

Wearing contact lenses that do not fit correctly or are not the correct material for the individual eye can lead to scratches, cuts, eye infections, or corneal neovascularization (growth of blood vessels in the cornea). In some cases, the damage can lead to permanent vision impairment or even blindness.

"Many people believe that decorative lenses don't require the same level of care or consideration because they can be purchased over-the-counter or on the Internet," says Thomas Steinemann, MD, professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, in a recent press statement. "This is far from the truth. In fact, permanent eye damage can occur from using over-the-counter lenses. Any type of contact lens is a medical device that requires a prescription and proper fitting by an eye care professional."

The danger posed by decorative contact lenses is illustrated by the personal experience of Laura Butler of Parkersburg, WV, who bought a pair from a souvenir shop. The American Academy of Ophthalmology quotes her as saying, "After wearing the contacts for a total of 10 hours, I experienced extreme pain in both eyes. Because I had not been properly fitted by an eye care professional, the lenses stuck to my eye like a suction cup. Removing them resulted in a corneal abrasion and a painful infection. I was in severe pain and on medication for four weeks and couldn't see well enough to drive for eight weeks. I now live with a corneal scar, vision damage and a drooping eye lid. I want to share my story in the hopes that others will not have to live through this nightmare."

Emergency eye care in Indianapolis
Indianapolis residents who require emergency eye care on Halloween or other occasion can visit one of the local hospitals or contact the Indianapolis Eye Care Center - IU School of Optometry Clinics and Patient Care at:
Indiana University School of Optometry
501 Indiana Avenue, Suite 100
Indianapolis, IN 46202
317-321-1470 (listen for instructions when calling for 24-hour emergency care)


  • Profile picture of Richard Webster
    Richard Webster 4 years ago

    good tips! I didn't realize costume contacts were getting so popular!

  • Deb A. 4 years ago

    Nice article. I hope it helps someone.

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