On Halloween, novelty contact lenses putting many at risk

The seemingly perfect accessory to a Halloween costume: a pair of piercing, red, or bloodshot eyes that completes a vampire, ghoul, or some other ghastly creation. They’re as widely available as almost any other fashion accessory these days, especially this time of year, but fashion or novelty contact lenses are putting many people at risk of serious eye injuries.

According to a report from The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, state health officials there are cracking down on the sale of novelty contact lenses and making an attempt to warn the public of the dangers of these products. In the week leading up to Halloween, the Florida Dept. of Health issued citations to a dozen businesses for illegally marketing novelty contact lenses, not having the proper licensing to do so.

Businesses received $500 fines for selling these novelty contact lenses without the proper license but those who may have purchased them certainly face a more significant risk, including the loss of vision.

Contact lenses are considered medical devices and as such, are strictly regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Normally, contact lenses can not be dispensed without a prescription from a doctor and lenses are fitted and strengthened specifically to a wearer’s eye. Novelty contact lenses, especially those available to the common consumer without medical okays, are typically not manufactured to the same specifications.

Consumers could purchase the wrong size lenses and cause irreparable harm to their eyes, including permanent loss of vision. If the contacts were manufactured in unsanitary conditions, they could pose risks of serious eye infections or other injuries that could impair vision long term. In a statement from the Florida Board of Health, “An uninformed contact user with ill-fitting contact lenses may develop significant eye injury with lifelong consequences for vision,” the Post report cites.

At Halloween, especially, these contact lenses should be avoided by all consumers. Store owners interviewed by the source indicate that less consumers are asking about novelty contacts, compared with years’ past, but that could just be a factor of a slow economy. There are FDA-approved novelty contact lenses available to consumers but only with an eye exam and prescription first.

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