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Coloured contact lenses Halloween warning

Eye charity warns the illegal sale of contact lenses puts eyesight at risk
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed

25th October 2012 -You may think special effect contact lenses that glow and change your eye colour are the ultimate finishing touch to your Halloween outfit - but unless properly fitted they are dangerous.

The Eyecare Trust has issued a stark warning to highlight the risk posed by the illegal sale of contact lenses. Despite being regarded as a novelty item, cosmetic or decorative contact lenses must, by law, be supplied by or under the supervision of a registered optometrist, suitably qualified dispensing optician or medical practitioner.

However, cosmetic and decorative lenses are increasingly available from shops, unregulated internet sites as well as market stalls and beauty salons, according to the charity.

Non-prescription contacts

Cosmetic contact lenses, also known as zero-powered, plano or non-prescription lenses, are used to change the colour or appearance of your eyes not correct your eyesight.

Most have an opaque tint that covers your iris and so changes your natural eye colour. The centre of the lens, which lies over your pupil, is clear so you can see. However, some novelty or costume contact lenses, like all-black, red, yellow or white contacts, cover both the iris and the white of your eye.

If you buy cosmetic contact lenses you’re not, according to the General Optical Council, legally required to have a fitting but it is in your best interest to do so. You also need to take the same degree of care when buying and wearing these lenses as with prescription lenses. So it is essential to have adequate instruction on lens care solutions, hygiene and handling and to follow all the recommended care procedures.

Contact lens risks

Common symptoms associated with unsupervised contact lens use include: red, sore or gritty eyes; a watery discharge; dry eyes; sensitivity to the light; headaches; blurred vision and sight loss.

Kelly Plahay, optometrist and acting chairman of the Eyecare Trust explains in a statement: "All contact lenses, whether you wear them for fun or to correct your vision, require the same level of care and attention because improper use can lead to serious eye infections, corneal ulcers, abrasions and even blindness or the loss of an eye.

"Coloured and decorative contact lenses are really popular during the Halloween season so the Eyecare Trust is urging people to seek professional advice at their local optician if they or their children plan to wear them."

Contact lens precautions

If you do want red or black, amber or glowing green eyes for Halloween here are the Eyecare Trust's top tips for wearing cosmetic contacts:

  • First, have an eye examination - your local optometrist will advise you on your suitability for contact lens wear
  • Take advice on the best sort of lens for your needs
  • Only buy from a registered optical professional who will give essential advice on how long and how often you can wear your lenses, as well as guidance on handling, cleaning and storing your contacts
  • Don’t wear the cosmetic lenses for longer than advised. Wearing time restrictions will vary from person-to-person
  • Disinfect and clean your lenses and any storage case daily in the recommended solution to kill any micro-organisms that may cause infection
  • Daily disposables should be disposed of daily!
  • Never wear anyone else's lenses or allow them to wear yours
  • If your eyes hurt, look red or feel irritated remove the lenses immediately and seek professional advice.
Reviewed on October 25, 2012

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