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4 ways non-Rx costume contact lenses can ruin your patients’ vision


With Halloween just around the corner, your patients may be looking for something to enhance their costumes, but if they purchase illegal cosmetic contact lenses, they can expect problems long after trick-or-treat.

San Francisco-With Halloween just around the corner, your patients may be looking for something to enhance their costumes, but if they purchase illegal cosmetic contact lenses, they can expect problems long after trick-or-treat.

In 2005, after reports of plano non-prescription costume contact lenses causing eye injuries and infections, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classified all contact lenses as medical devices and restricted their distribution to licensed eyecare professionals, effectively banning sales of non-prescription contact lenses. Despite this regulation, the lenses remain available on the Internet and in convenience stores.

Share this pediatric vision checklist with your patients

The American Academy of Ophthalmology shares the scary ways these lenses can damage your eyes. Share this patient-friendly list of warnings and tips at your practice:

1.Scratches. Because over-the-counter lenses are not fitted and sized for the person wearing the contacts, they can easily scrape the outer layer of the eye, causing a corneal abrasion. The wearer may experience redness, light sensitivity, discharge, pain, and the feeling that something is stuck under the eyelid.

2. Sores. Costume contact lenses can create a corneal ulcer, with symptoms similar to corneal abrasions. The ulcers sometimes appear as a white dot on the iris. When the ulcers heal, they can scar over and can permanently affect vision in some cases.

3. Infections. Both corneal abrasions and ulcers create openings in the eye, making them more vulnerable to keratitis. One study found that wearing cosmetic contact lenses increased the risk of keratitis by more than 16 times.1

4. Blindness. In the most extreme cases, complications from wearing costume contact lenses may require surgery or end in blindness. For instance, extensive scarring from an infection can distort the cornea or make it opaque, requiring a corneal transplant to restore vision. 


To safely wear costume contact lenses this Halloween, your patients should use following these guidelines:

• Buy decorative contact lenses only from an eyecare professional or retailer that requires a prescription and sells FDA-approved products.

• If you don't already have a contact lens prescription, obtain a valid prescription and eye exam from an eyecare professional.

• Even for those with perfect vision, an eye exam and prescription are mandatory in order to fit the right size contact lenses. Do not fall victim to false advertising claims and lenses labeled as "one size fits all" or "no need to see an eye specialist."

The harsh reality of contact lens care compliance

• Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses. Contact lenses that are left in for too long or that are not properly cleaned and disinfected can significantly increase the risk of an eye infection.

Never share contact lenses with another person or wear expired lenses.

• If you notice redness, swelling, excessive discharge, pain or discomfort from wearing contact lenses, remove the lenses and seek immediate medical attention from an eyecare professional.


1. Sauer A, Boucier T, French Study Group for Contact Lenses Related Microbial Keratitis. Microbial keratitis as a foreseeable complication of cosmetic contact lenses: A prospective study. Act Ophthalmol. 2011 Aug;89(5):e439-42. 

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