While it might be tempting to add impact or wow factor to your Halloween costume with novelty or decorative contact lenses, there are many dangers to be aware of which could lead to a scarier end to Halloween than expected. Optometry Australia warns that non-prescription accessory lenses can be dangerous and lead to significant, long-term eye damage.
The peak professional body for optometrists advises that buying novelty lenses online or over the counter can lead to eye infections, damage, and even permanent blindness.
Optometry Australia's Senior Resident Optometrist Simon Hanna said: 'Don't mess with your eyes – always seek professional guidance before using contact lenses.
'The surface of the eye is extremely delicate and wearing non-prescribed novelty contact lenses, particularly those from a dubious source, could cause eye damage ranging from mild infections to sight-threatening conditions such as corneal scarring and even blindness," he said.
'Contact lenses are not -one size fits all' and if people want to enhance their Halloween look with fancy dress lenses, it is important to make sure the lenses are prescribed by an optometrist who will measure each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how the eye responds to contact lens wear using a microscope.
'The optometrist will then instruct them on appropriate insertion and removal techniques and correct contact lens care to minimise the risk of irreversible eye damage," he said.
Suppliers of playfully packaged novelty contact lenses often target unsuspecting teenagers and young adults who are usually unaware of the dangers associated with buying contact lenses without a prescription and of the need for proper eye care.
'Many people are using contacts for the first time when they buy them for a costume and they often don't know how to insert and remove the lenses safely. This further increases the risk of scratching or damaging the eye.
'If they are hanging in a Halloween display in a shop our simple advice is, leave them there" said Mr Hanna.
A recent study also found that cosmetic contact lenses available online often circumvent regulation from safety agencies such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and can contain harmful chemicals such as chlorine, which can seep from the colourants in the lens to cause toxicity problems for the eyes. [i]
Jessica Chi, National President of the Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia, said that contact lenses provide an effective and safe method of vision correction when prescribed properly by an optometrist, but that novelty lenses require the same high level of care to be worn safely.
She recommends the following tips for safe wear of contact lenses at Halloween (or any time of the year):
Have contact lenses properly fitted at an optometrist who will also instruct you on correct insertion, removal and cleaning of lenses.
Always wash hands before touching contacts and never store or clean contacts with tap water.
Don't sleep in contact lenses unless advised it is safe to do so by your optometrist.
If your eyes become red, sensitive to light, painful, gunky or your vision becomes blurred remove lenses and see an optometrist ASAP.
For more information on optometry services in Australia, including finding your local optometrist, visit www.optometry.org.au