If you are considering adding costume contact lenses to your Halloween get-up this season, make sure you don’t purchase them from a gas station, online store, or other unlicensed dealers — or you and your eyes could be in for a real scare.
Costume contact lenses are also referred to by several descriptive names such as decorative, fashion, Halloween, colored and theater contact lenses. These alternative eye accessories can be fun and harmless but only when they are prescribed by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist and purchased from a licensed optometrist, ophthalmologist, or licensed contact lens dispenser.
The California State Board of Optometry wants you to be aware that costume lenses purchased over the counter without a prescription from an unlicensed source are illegal and may harm your eyes or eyesight.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the potential risks associated with non-prescription, decorative lenses include:
- Corneal abrasions (a cut or scratch to the top layer of your eyeball)
- Corneal ulcers
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Allergic reactions like itchy, watery red eyes
- Decreased vision
Adolescents and young adults are the most common groups affected by the risks associated with some decorative contact lenses, according to the FDA. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that when decorative contact lenses are sold without a prescription and without proper fitting and education about wear and care from an eye-care professional, the potential for permanent eye damage–including blindness increases.
Cosmetic contact lenses are easy to find and are often sold illegally without a prescription online, at flea markets, novelty shops, barber shops, beauty salons, mall kiosks, Halloween costume stores, convenience stores, and even gas stations.
Don’t be fooled. In California, cosmetic contacts that do not correct your vision, just like contacts that correct your vision, must be prescribed by a licensed eye-care professional and sold by a licensed optometrist, ophthalmologist or licensed contact lens dispenser.
The California State Board of Optometry has a brochure that contains helpful information about cosmetic contact lenses.
To verify the license of an optometrist or an ophthalmologist check their board’s respective website at www.optometry.ca.gov and www.mbc.ca.gov.