A Spooky Trend: Over-the-Counter Contact Lenses

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With Halloween around the corner, Americans are gearing up for a spooky holiday season with fun costumes, decorations, and candy. But, if your Halloween involves costume contact lenses, your holiday could be downright scary. Though they may seem like harmless, cosmetic accessories, costume lenses are incredibly dangerous. Despite being linked with cases of infection and partial blindness, these trendy, over-the-counter lenses are growing in popularity among young people. We’ve collected what you need to know about this trend and why you should never purchase or wear non-prescription contacts.

Why are over-the-counter contact lenses dangerous?

All contact lenses rest on top of the cornea, directly on the eye. When a professional eye expert prescribes these lenses, a patient can confidently wear them, knowing that they will fit the eye, correct any refractive errors, remain breathable, and be made with sterile materials. 

Non-prescription contacts are a different story. When consumers turn to online marketplaces, street vendors, or costume stores for these over-the-counter medical devices, they are risking their vision and health. Without medical guidance or safety regulations, many of these lenses fit improperly and are tainted with bacteria. Plus, consumers receive no instructions regarding contact lens safety, sanitization, wear, or removal. Since most over-the-counter lenses are painted, non-breathable, and one size fits all, wearing them can restrict oxygen to the cornea and lead to corneal scratches, allergic reactions, and vision loss. 

In addition to issues of fit, costume lenses are notoriously dirty. Some studies have even shown that costume lenses can contain bacteria found in hospital wastewater and spoiled food. In fact, Ophthalmology and Visual Science reports that non-prescription lenses carry a 16 times greater risk of infection than their prescribed counterparts. Since dirty contact lenses can cause serious infections, like keratitis, corneal sores, and ulcers, it’s no surprise that it is illegal to sell non-prescription contacts—despite their popularity and availability online.

Keep your eyes safe

Though most people associate prescription contact lenses with refractive error correction, you can receive a prescription for safe, color-enhancing lenses—even if you don’t have a refractive error. With the medical guidance of our eye experts, we will provide you with proper contact lens hygiene, wear, and removal instructions so you can safely enjoy your Halloween. If you are interested in color-enhancing contacts, call us today and schedule an appointment with our ophthalmologists. Just remember: steer clear of non-prescription contacts. No holiday is worth compromising your vision.

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