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From cats’ eyes to clocks, shapes and symbols to spirals, and in any color imaginable, decorative contact lenses entice the costume-oriented and aesthetically-minded alike. Purchased for special occasions or everyday use, these fashion accessories are available as either simply decorative lenses or with additional vision-correction functionality.

However, as easy and fun as they may seem, decorative contact lenses are far from benign trinkets like earrings and necklaces. They are medical devices that are regulated by the FDA and legally require a prescription to be sold. Colored lenses are not one-size-fits-all: they must be fitted by a qualified practitioner to ensure their safety. Proper care and cleaning are essential..

Colored Contacts

Types of Color

Colored contact lenses come in three categories. Visibility tinted lenses are those which do not change the appearance of your eyes but are visible if they are dropped. Enhancement tinted lenses are translucent and change your eye color without completely blocking it. Opaque lenses do not show any of your natural color through the lens and are used by people with dark irises who want a lighter shade, or for costume lenses such as those that mimic cats’ eyes.

Safety Rules to Follow

Decorative contact lenses can be safe if purchased and cared for properly. Prudent steps to follow to ensure safety include:

  • Visit an ophthalmologist or optometrist for an eye exam.
  • Obtain a prescription for the lenses you want.
  • Purchase your lenses from an authorized dealer who requires that you have a prescription.
  • Follow care and cleaning procedures.
  • Discontinue use and see your doctor if you experience pain, redness or reduced vision.

Risks Associated with Non-Prescription Lenses

Non-prescription lenses sold by fashion and novelty retailers can potentially be very damaging to your eyes. Risks include cornea scratches, infections, pink eye, decreased vision and even blindness.

Retailers to Avoid

As tempting as it may be, never purchase colored contact lenses from a retailer that does not require a prescription.

Examples include:

  • Beauty salons
  • Costume retailers
  • Convenience stores
  • Novelty shops
  • Street vendors
  • Websites that fill orders without a prescription

Instead, ask your doctor for a dealer recommendation.

Whether or not decorative contact lenses are safe depends on where they are purchased and how they are used. Under medical supervision, purchased with a prescription and given proper cleaning and care, these accessories can add mystique to your look or a memorable edge to your Halloween costume. Without proper safety considerations, however, they can be dangerous and are best avoided.

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