Doctors warn: Costume contacts damage your eyes

Greenville NewsOctober 23, 2013 

— Local ophthalmologists are warning Halloween shoppers to avoid costume contact lenses because they may damage their eyes.

The lenses, which have been illegal in South Carolina and other states since 2005, may not meet federal health and safety standards and can cause cuts and ulcers, as well as bacterial infections such as keratitis, said Dr. Kurt Heitman of Southern Eye Associates in Greenville. And sometimes the injuries lead to corneal transplants, other eye surgeries and even blindness, he said.

“They have a 15-fold increase in infection, according to some studies, which could lead to permanent vision loss,” he said. “They can also cause corneal abrasions or scratches on the cornea. Since they are thicker and often have paint on them, they caused decreased oxygen to the cornea, which can also be harmful.”

Though outlawed, they still show up in shops and online.

“Our concern is that people are unaware of a much increased risk of permanent damage or blindness due to decorative contact lenses,” Heitman said. “I urge all those considering decorative contact lenses for Halloween to reconsider.”

Contact lenses are classified as medical devices and therefore can only be distributed by licensed eye care professionals, he said.

“What happens to people’s eyes after just one evening of wearing non-prescription costume contact lenses is tragic,” said Dr. Thomas Steinemann, professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland and a clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “I understand how tempting it is to dress up your eyes on Halloween without a prescription and using over-the-counter lenses, but people should not let one night of fun ruin their vision for a lifetime.”

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