Many people believe that a one-time purchase of costume contacts over the counter or on the internet is completely harmless. The truth, however, is that there are numerous issues with costume contacts that many don’t know about. So if you have the perfect zombie costume picked out and you just need some red contacts to complete, make sure you familiarize yourself with the risks and proper channels first.
- Circle lenses are not FDA-approved.
Circle lenses are not only used for costumes, but are an emerging fashion trend, especially for teenage girls. The American Academy of Ophthalmology issued a statement alerting consumers to the dangers of these accessories.
The primary cause for concern is that these lenses are not fitted to the eye of the wearer and can therefore cause inflammation and pain. More serious issues include corneal abrasions and ulcers on the eye, which can lead to an infection called keratitis and, ultimately, blindness. Corneal transplants and other eye surgeries would be necessary by that point to prevent blindness.
- Selling nonprescription lenses is illegal.
It has been illegal since 2005 when federal law declared that all contact lenses are classified as medical devices. From that point on, they have restricted the sale of these lenses from anyone who isn’t a licensed eye care professional. People who still sell them could receive a fine up to $11,000.
But these nonprescription lenses (also called “plano” lenses) are still available on the internet, in costume shops, beauty salons, and Halloween stores. Just because they are available, does not mean they are healthy or even legal.
- You can still wear costume contacts, but only after you see your eye care professional.
It isn’t the material or the nature of the lenses themselves that make them dangerous, but the fact that buying them over the counter will not take the unique size, shape, and features of your eyes into account. It is the ill-fitting nature of these lenses that cause the problem.
Not everyone is a good candidate for contacts, costume or otherwise, such as people who experience frequent eye infections, dry eyes, and severe allergies. If you struggle with any of these issues, it is even more imperative that you don’t purchase over-the-counter lenses.
Most people can still enjoy that pair of red contacts with their zombie costumes – just make sure to visit an eye doctor first and get a prescription.