Costume or novelty contact lenses can really enhance a Halloween disguise! They can make a goblin instantly look more ghoulish or a vampire look like they walked off the set of Twilight. But it is important to remember that contact lenses, whether for costume or vision correction use, are actually deemed medical devices by the FDA, and for good reason.
An improper fit of contact lenses, whether clear or decorative, can result in serious injury or infection to the cornea (lens of the eye on which the contact lens sits), resulting in what could be severe pain and significant or even total vision loss. Costume contact lenses, just like clear contact lenses that are utilized for vision correction, require proper fitting by an eye care professional. Optometrists and ophthalmologists have equipment to ensure the lenses are fitting properly on eyes and will know if the novelty lenses are being sourced from a reputable, licensed retailer.
You would likely not be able to feel that a contact lens is too tight for your eye, but the negative consequences of wearing a lens that is too snug can present even after only an hour or two of wear. The cornea has no blood supply of its own and is reliant on tears and the atmosphere for oxygen. As a result, a lens that does not have the proper amount of movement when on the eye creates a condition of low oxygen availability to the cornea which is called corneal hypoxia. The opaque color on costume contact lenses creates even more of a barrier for oxygen to get to the eyes, making hypoxia more likely. The consequences of corneal hypoxia include swelling, the growth of new blood vessels in what is supposed to be a translucent cornea, thinning of the corneal epithelium, abrasions and increased binding of bacteria to the cornea’s surface, increasing the risk of eye infection.
In summary, you should only get your costume contact lenses from an eye care professional or retailer that requires a prescription. In fact, it is illegal to sell colored contact lenses without a prescription in the United States. Make sure to also comply with all follow-ups recommended by your eye care professional. If you notice redness, tearing, pain or discomfort, remove your lenses immediately and contact your optometrist or ophthalmologist.
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