Frightful for Your Sight

Decorative contact lenses can damage eyes cause blindness

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Blood red vampire eyes, blacked out lenses or slit pupils resembling a cat. These may be the eye-popping accessory to complete your Halloween costume! You can get any of theses looks by wearing decorative contact lenses. But, before you buy them, beware of the risks.

Wearing decorative contact lenses, which change the appearance of your eyes but don’t correct vision, can cause serious eye damage.

Improper care for lenses can cause inflammation, pain and infections in the eyes. Using the right solution to keep contact lenses clean and moist is important.

"Decorative contact lenses may hurt - see a doctor. "

Peter Russo, OD, Director of the Contact Lens Program at Loyola University Medical Center, warns that people should never wear decorative contact lenses without a prescription.

If contact lenses are purchased without a valid prescription, they may not fit properly, which can cause severe damage to the eyes.

Contact lenses that don’t fit correctly can scratch the cornea, the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, which gives our eyes color. A poor fit can also cause corneal infection or ulceration, conjunctivitis (pink eye), decreased vision or blindness.

Decorative contact lenses are medical devices regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are not cosmetics or over-the-counter products.

Novelty stores, costume shops, beauty salons, and other places that sell decorative contact lenses without a prescription are breaking the law.

"Contact lenses should never be worn without a prescription from a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist," said Dr. Russo.

“In fact, it is against the law to sell decorative contact lenses without a prescription.”

People who wear decorative contact lenses should also care for them properly to protect their eyes. It’s important to follow directions from an eye care professional for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses.

Mistakes in caring for contact lenses due to lack of instruction, like using the wrong solution or using tap water to disinfect rather than contact lens solution, can cause serious problems.

“The problem isn’t with the decorative contacts themselves,” said Bernard Lepri, OD, MS, M.Ed, an optometrist at the FDA. “It’s the way people use them improperly—without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care.”

Improper wear and care for lenses can cause inflammation, pain and redness and infections in the eyes. Using the right solution to keep contact lenses clean and moist is important for preventing infection.

“Bacterial infections can be extremely rapid, result in corneal ulcers and cause blindness—sometimes within as little as 24 hours if not diagnosed and treated promptly,” said Dr. Lepri.

If you want to purchase decorative contact lenses, visit your eye doctor first for an eye exam and get a valid prescription.

Your doctor will measure your eyes to fit the lenses properly and assess how your eyes react to wearing contact lenses. The safest way to buy decorative contact lenses is from a seller who requires a valid prescription.

"Even when worn for a relatively short period of time, such as during a Halloween party, decorative contact lenses can damage eyes if not used properly," said Dr. Russo. "They may seem like a lot of fun, but they're not worth the risk. Never wear a contact lens, whether for vision correction or for decoration, without a prescription."

The article was published online on October 22 by Newswise. The FDA consumer update was published online on October 12.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 27, 2012
Last Updated:
October 28, 2012