Before buying spooky contacts for that zombie costume, health experts say to use caution to avoid the scary potential for dangerous eye disorders.
Even people with good eyesight must get a prescription before buying contacts, explained Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
"Where they are decorative, zero-power lenses ... used often as fashion accessories, people assume they're safe and don't have to worry about them because their vision is good," Gupta said.
"It's important to understand, contact lenses are recommended by a physician or optometrist because it matches your eye and its curvature. Obviously, it's scary when people don't go through that process."
The reason why it's important to get a prescription, Gupta said, is because when the lens doesn't properly fit, it can cause eyestrain and corneal abrasions. He said an ill-fitting contact could worsen abrasions and become a host for infection.
Lenses sold without a prescription may not meet federal standards, according to a news release from the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The news release states these contacts also may cause open sores and blinding bacterial infections.
All contact lenses are classified as medical devices under the FDA, the news release states, and even though it has been illegal to sell these lenses since 2005, some shops and online retailers continue to carry them.
Gupta and the American Academy of Ophthalmology said people should treat costume contacts the same as they would regular contacts. Gupta said people should not exchange contacts with friends or wear them overnight.
People also should seek medical attention if they experience red eye, swelling, foreign-body feeling or other discomfort.
"The risk of contact lenses is the same whether there's a therapeutic or cosmetic component," Gupta said.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommended the following steps in its press release:
- Only buy contacts from an eye care professional or a retailer that requires a prescription and sells FDA-approved products.
- If you don't have a prescription, obtain one through an eye exam from an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
- Do not fall victim to false advertising claims and lenses labeled as "one size fits all" or "no need to see an eye specialist."
- Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the lenses. Dirty contacts and those that are left in too long can cause infections.
- Never share contact lenses with another person or wear expired lenses.
If you notice redness, swelling, excessive discharge, pain or discomfort from wearing contact lenses, remove them and seek immediate medical attention. Some infections can quickly become serious and cause blindness if left untreated.