Sporting "Tricked Out" Eyes this Halloween? Have a Safe, not Scary Time with Decorative Contact Lenses
In a few days, many people will do a double take when “something” that looks human… but has the eyes of a vampire, wolf or monster… appears at their doorstep asking for a treat. This is because a number of regular, everyday people plan to wear decorative contact lenses for Halloween.
Decorative contact lenses are fanciful and theatrical, often suggesting a Halloween theme more than most costumes. In general, there are two different kinds of decorative contact lenses. The first kind includes lenses that are specifically approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the second are not FDA-approved. In the palm of someone's hand, these two kinds of lenses look nearly identical. However, before purchasing a pair of these lenses, take a moment to review the following tips from Dr. Scott Breidbart, Chief Medical Officer, Empire BlueCross BlueShield. These tips can help people have a safe experience with their decorative contact lenses:
Remember, They Are Medical Devices. Decorative contact lenses should not be viewed as cosmetics or over-the-counter merchandise. They are medical devices that are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
One Size Doesn't Fit All. See an eye care professional (specifically, an ophthalmologist or optometrist) before using decorative contact lenses…even if one believes their vision is perfect. An ophthalmologist or optometrist must measure each eye to properly fit the contact lenses and to evaluate how the eye responds to contact lens wear. Wearing poorly fitting contacts can cause serious eye damage, including:
- Scratches on the cornea (the part of the eye that is positioned in front of the iris, or color of the eye, and where the lens will rests)
- Corneal infection (a serious and painful infection and ulcer of the cornea)
- Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Decreased vision
Get An Exam and A Valid Prescription. All of the stores and websites that advertise decorative lenses as cosmetics or sell them without a prescription are breaking the law. It is illegal to sell decorative lenses without a prescription in the United States. And, since 2005, a law classified all contact lenses as medical devices and restricted their distribution to licensed eye care professionals. (The laws on decorative lenses vary in countries outside the U.S.) A valid prescription should include the brand name, lens measurements and an expiration date. Keep in mind that eye care professional will not prescribe the bigger-than-normal lenses that give the wearer a wide-eyed doll-like look because they have not been approved by the FDA.
Clean, Clean, Clean. Remember to follow the directions for cleaning, disinfection and wearing the decorative lenses. Contacts that are not cleaned or disinfected properly can cause pain and lead to potentially serious infections. See an eye doctor if there is any redness or eye pain that does not go away after a short period of time, or any clouding or a decrease in vision.
Avoid Buying Here. Do not buy decorative lenses from the following places because they are not authorized distributors of contact lenses:
- Street vendors
- Salons or beauty supply stores
- Flea markets
- Novelty stores
- Halloween stores
- Record or video stores
- Convenience stores
- Beach shops
- The Internet (unless the site requires a prescription)
What Happens If... If there is pain or discomfort that remains for a few hours after wearing and removing the decorative contact lenses, consult an eye doctor. When waiting for the eye doctor, consider wearing a pair of eye glasses with Transitions® lenses, or sunglasses to help reduce the discomfort.
Remember to keep these tips in mind when looking for decorative contact lenses. These tips should ensure that the decorative contact lens wearer has a Halloween night that is filled with delightful treats.
About Empire BlueCross BlueShield:
Serving New Yorkers for over 75 years, Empire BlueCross BlueShield is the largest health insurer in New York supporting nearly six million members and more than 38,000 business, union and small employers in New York. Empire BlueCross BlueShield (Empire) is the trade name of Empire HealthChoice Assurance, Inc., and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO is the trade name of Empire HealthChoice HMO, Inc., independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, serving residents and businesses in the 28 eastern and southeastern counties of New York State. Additional information about Empire is available at www.empireblue.com. Also, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/healthjoinin, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HealthJoinInEmpire, or visit our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/healthjoinin.
Sources: FDA Consumer Health Information/U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Oct. 2012.
Empire BlueCross BlueShield
Sally Kweskin, 212-476-1421