It may seem fun to change the color of your eyes with costume contact lenses, but did you know that many of these types of devices are actually dangerous? Costume contact lenses are still widely available despite being made illegal in 2005, and wearing lenses that are not approved by the American Academy of Ophthalmology can lead to serious eye injuries, such as blindness. Today, we will discuss both the dangers of costume contact lenses and how you can protect your eyes and still have some fun.


    Costume contact lenses are available in a variety of colors and types, but if they are not approved by the FDA and American Academy of Ophthalmology, they can cause a variety of injuries; including cuts and sores to the iris and pupil, as well as bacterial infections. In many cases, these injuries can lead to more permanent and severe eye injuries, including blindness.

    Cuts and abrasions to the eye are called corneal abrasions, and may lead to open sores, or ulcers. These types of eye injuries are painful, and symptoms will include itching and excess tearing, light sensitivity (photophobia), or a gritty sensation that feels as if sand or dust is in the eye. A mild injury will repair itself within one to three days, but the injuries caused by costume contact lenses typically result in more significant cuts and abrasions that do not heal on their own. These smaller injuries can often develop into much more serious injuries, including ulcers of the cornea (the clear protective layer of the eye). Cuts and abrasions to the cornea are prone to keratitis — a painful bacterial infection that could lead to blindness if not treated swiftly.

    The scariest part behind the dangers of costume contact lenses is that they can trigger these problems after just one wear. Treatment for related injuries range from topical medications such as eye drops or ointments, to more serious interventions such as surgery, including corneal transplants, but there is serious risk of permanent partial or complete vision loss.


    Although most costume contact lenses pose a number of dangers, it is possible to still have some fun and keep your eyes safe. First and foremost, never buy decorative lenses from anyone, in a shop or online, that is not approved to sell them by the FDA. Additionally, don’t believe any claim that states “one size fits all,” or that suggests a visit with an eye specialist is not necessary. Such claims should immediately strike you as a warning signal that these lenses are not FDA-approved.

    When seeking decorative or colored lenses, be sure to have an eye examination to ensure that your eyes are healthy enough for contact lenses and also to obtain a prescription for lenses, even if you don’t normally require prescription glasses or contacts. Even decorative lenses should require a prescription. Next, make sure that you purchase your lenses only from an eye specialist who can issue a prescription and sells only FDA-approved contacts. By obtaining a prescription and purchasing your decorative lenses from an approved source, you can ensure that your lenses will fit properly. Not all eyes are the same size and shape.

    Once you have your new prescription lenses, be sure that you follow the instructions for wearing, cleaning, and disinfecting the lenses. Limit how long you wear your lenses and never sleep in them, as wearing your lenses for too long can significantly increase the risk of infection. If you notice any signs of irritation or injury, remove your lenses immediately and call your Silverstein Eye Centers specialist without delay. Signs of a problem include swelling, redness, itching, pain or discomfort, and discharge while wearing your lenses. Keratitis, the bacterial infection mentioned above, can progress swiftly and needs to be treated at the first signs of a problem to prevent irreversible blindness.


    To learn more about costume contact lenses, eye health, or any other eye-related concerns, call Silverstein Eye Centers specialists today at 816-358-3600.

    Posted April 17, 2014 by Silverstein Eye Centers
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