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Horrors of Halloween contact lenses highlighted by FDA

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
FDA warns consumers about decorative contact lenses

The scarier you are, the worse for your health when it comes to Halloween costumes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers about the horror of wearing colored contact lenses with Halloween around the bend.

You really might lose an eye from decorative contacts

There are more than 600 different colored contact lenses you can choose from for Halloween and some even have designs, per a simple internet search.

Purchasing lenses over the internet without a prescription or lenses that are not FDA approved means there is no guaranteed fit, warns the FDA.

The results means the contacts can move about on the eye causing corneal abrasions. There is also risk of infection from conjunctivitis that causes eye redness, pain and difficulty seeing.

It's not the contact lenses themselves that can cause problems, but the way people wear them.

Dr. Bernard Lepri, an FDA optometrist, said in an agency news release: "It's the way people use them improperly -- without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye-care professional or without appropriate follow-up care."

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The only safe contact lenses are those requiring a prescription.

Laura Butler nearly lost her eye after wearing decorative contact lenses that she bought for $30. Her medical bills were more than $2000. An eye exam and prescription for FDA approved lenses would have cost approximately $110.

It started with a corneal abrasion, which is a scratch on the surface of the eye.

As her contacts slipped around on her eye, Butler used her fingers to adjust them. The next day she developed excruciating pain after struggling to get the lenses removed. She said taking them out was like removing "suction cups".

Her ophthalmologist told her she could lose her eyesight and even her eye, explaining her eye looked like someone had rubbed it with sandpaper.

She also says there were no directions about how to care for her lenses from the vendor.

Butler saw her doctor daily for 10 days and describes the pain as excruciating enough to make her curl up in a fetal position on the floor. She still has decreased vision in her eye. It took 8 weeks before she could drive and her eyelid drooped for five months.

The FDA is concerned consumers will harm their eyes from using decorative contact lenses that are especially popular around Halloween. Their recommendation is to get an eye exam, a valid prescription, instructions for using them and see your eye-care professional for follow-up. Follow directions for handling, disinfecting and cleaning.