Looking for the perfect way to top off your Halloween costume this year and steal the show? May we suggest NOT using costume contacts?

 Every year around Halloween, we are reminded of how dangerous yet popular costume contacts are. These costume, or cosmetic, contacts serve only one purpose – to change your eye’s appearance. Costume contacts come in a variety of colors as well as effects that make your eyes look like vampires, animals, zombies and many more. The only problem with these contacts – they aren’t safe for your eyes.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the claims retailers make such as "one size fits all" and "no need to see an eye specialist" are misleading. Non-prescription contact lens sales are illegal.

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What's wrong with costume contact lenses?

Contact lenses should not be thought of as fashion accessories or makeup – they are medical devices that require a prescription from an eye care professional. The eyes are one of the most delicate and important parts of the body, so what you put in and on them must be medically safe and FDA-approved.

Many people buy these lenses to use as costume accessories to enhance their Halloween, and shops as well as online retailers actively market and advertise the lenses to innocent consumers unaware of the risks. These risks include dangerous infections that can lead to permanent vision loss and even require corneal transplants. This is why many ophthalmologists see a spike in patients coming to them with these types of injuries around Halloween.

What damage can costume contact lenses cause?

Non-prescription costume contacts can cause injuries such as cuts and open sores in the protective layer of the iris and pupil (corneal abrasions and corneal ulcers) and potentially blinding painful bacterial infections (keratitis). These injuries can require serious eye surgeries such as corneal transplants, and in some cases lead to permanent vision loss.

One study found that wearing costume contact lenses increased the risk for developing keratitis – a potentially blinding infection that causes an ulcer on the eye – by more than 16 times, compared to people who wear regular, corrective contacts. Unfortunately, 60 percent of patients who developed keratitis from wearing non-prescription costume contact lenses in this study suffered permanent vision loss.

If you want your Halloween look to include cat, zombie or glow-in-the-dark eyes, or if you’d like to use lenses to change your eye color or appearance, get your costume contact lenses prescribed by an eye care professional. It’s crucial that your lenses fit properly, and your individual prescription can only be determined by an eye exam.

Skipping this step and buying lenses online or over the counter can set you up for serious eye problems, infections or even permanent vision loss.

Why do people need to get an eye exam from an eye care professional before they can wear costume contact lenses?

Even if you have perfect vision, you must always have an eye examination and obtain a prescription prior to wearing contact lenses. Lenses that are not properly fitted to your eye may scratch the eye or cause blood vessels to grow into the cornea.

Are costume contact lenses safe as long as you have a prescription?

Contact lenses are medical devices that require a commitment to proper care by the patient. When people use contact lenses of any kind, it is important that both the child and their parents understand the risks. Even under the best supervision, injury and infections can occur. Even if you have been to an ophthalmologist and received a prescription, be sure to only buy costume contacts from retailers who require a prescription to purchase the lenses and who only sell FDA-approved contact lenses.

So this Halloween, rethink the costume contacts and choose a safer option in order to win that costume contest. Your eyes will thank you.