A recent study by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) shows that several varities of costume contact lenses tested positive for chlorine and other harmful chemicals.
The research found chlorine in three types of non-prescription costume contact lenses. Iron was found on four pairs of lenses. The chemicals may come from colorants used to tint and create playful patterns on the lenses. One pair seeped chlorine after a routine rinse, prompting concern from researchers about toxicity to the eye. The study also noted that colorants printed or pressed onto some decorative lenses create an uneven texture. Those rough surfaces could scratch the eyes, potentially allowing in bacteria that can cause infection and even blindness.
Four of the five lenses in the study are not available legally in the United States the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) has not approved them. Contact lenses not approved by the FDA may be made with materials that can harm the eyes, causing corneal ulcers or keratitis. Both of these conditions can result in scarring that impairs vision or causes blindness. For this reason, the Academy advises against wearing decorative lenses without a prescription. Even so, consumers can buy these and many other decorative potentially dangerous lenses online. Around Halloween, they often crop up for sale at beauty parlors or even gas stations.
Guidelines to Pass Onto Your Patients
To safely wear decorative contact lenses this Halloween or any time of year, the AAO recommends following these guidelines:
- Only buy decorative contact lenses from retailers who require a prescription and sell FDA-approved products.
- Obtain a valid prescription and eye exam from an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
- Even those with good vision need an examine so the lenses fit properly. Ill-fitting lenses can scratch the surface of the eye, creating an opening for infection.
- Redness, swelling, excessive discharge, pain or discomfort can signal eye infection. If you have these symptoms, immediately see an ophthalmologist. Eye infections can cause blindness if left untreated.
- For more information on costume contact lenses, visit the Academy's public information website, www.geteyesmart.org.