Halloween lenses: More trick than treat

WASHINGTON U.-ST. LOUIS (US) — Don’t get tricked into hurting eyes with unsafe contact lenses this Halloween, says visual scientist Mary Migneco.

Using contact lenses to change the look of eyes may be the perfect touch for the Halloween costume, but if used incorrectly could impair vision and permanently damage the eyes.

The lenses can be purchased at costume shops, beauty salons, and from other vendors that are not qualified to sell medical devices. But contact lenses should only be bought from a qualified health professional, says Migneco, an optometrist and instructor in ophthalmology and visual sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.


“Decorative lenses can be worn safely, and they can enhance your Halloween costume, but if they don’t fit properly, or you’re not a suitable candidate for contact lenses, you’re asking for trouble.

“Costume shop Halloween contact lenses come only as one-size-fits-all. But one size does not fit all. You can only determine proper fit with an eye exam.”

Any contact lenses can cause serious eye damage if used incorrectly. If the lenses don’t fit properly or the individual wearing them has very dry eyes, that person will be at risk for scratches on the surface of the eye, known as corneal abrasions. Allergic reactions to the lenses also are common, as are diminished vision and infections.

“Any sort of wound on the eye can provide an opening for bacteria,” she says. “That can lead to scarring of the eye. And if the scarring is permanent, a person can suffer vision loss,” Migneco says.

Scratches on the cornea also are extremely painful. “On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most painful, patients often rate a corneal abrasion as a 10.”

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