Halloween is just around the corner. Now is the time to decorate the house, buy the candy (KitKats please), dial in your party plans, and figure out your costume. It’s very fun to visit a Halloween store to check out what they have. There are always the great masks, funky ‘staches, and goofy clothes. Many stores also carry a selection of spooky contact lenses. These are painted to make your eyes look reptilian, cat like, or just plain creepy. However, these lenses are not just spooky in their appearance. They are spooky deep down to their guts. Let me explain.
All contact lenses allow a certain amount of water and oxygen through to the eye. Engineers and chemists work aggressively to design lenses that are safe, comfortable, stable, free from bacteria, and allow for good vision. Then they go through a many year process of research and clinical trials to become approved by the FDA. Finally, the contact lens companies rely upon certified optometrists to skillfully fit the lenses on patients and then to regularly check the lenses and eyes for problems. This is how a contact lens goes from being a brilliant idea in a researcher’s head to performing beautifully on your eye. The problem with cosmetic Halloween contacts is that nearly all of them are not approved by the FDA. It’s also illegal to sell contacts without an explicit prescription from a licensed eye doctor. When a company wantonly ignores these regulations, it’s pretty easy to guess how interested they are in the health of your eye.
What happens when a contact doesn’t perform safely on the eye? At the low end of the spectrum, the eyes may become red and irritated. They can also become painfully inflamed and sensitive to light – a condition called uveitis. Sometimes they can develop a bacterial infection or activate a latent herpes virus. In some very severe cases, the cornea may develop an ulcer and leave a serious scar. Nearly all of these conditions can potentially lead to permanent vision loss or other complications. It’s not worth having “spooky” eyes one night and have “SPOOKY!” eyes for a long time afterwards.
Have a happy Halloween that’s full of candy and not eye infections!
Spencer Ritenour, O.D.