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Scary contact lenses

Posted: October 15, 2009 10:33 p.m.
Updated: October 16, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Costume contact lenses may be the perfect touch to your Halloween costume but the California Optometric Association (COA) warns that by using them without first visiting an optometrist, you are risking permanent eye damage. Federal law requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate cosmetic lenses as medical devices, similar to corrective lenses. However, these lenses continue to be illegally marketed and distributed directly to consumers.

COA spokesman Dr. Jonathan Gording has fitted costume contacts for numerous Hollywood productions including True Blood (54 actors), The Closer, The Mentalist, House, Interview with a Vampire, Buffy, Angel and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He cautions that using costume contact lenses incorrectly can cause eye infections that, without treatment, can lead to permanent scarring of the eye and vision loss. Other risks associated with the improper use of decorative contact lenses include conjunctivitis, swelling, allergic reaction and corneal abrasion due to poor lens fit. "When I work with a producer, I have to remind them that costume contacts are medical devices," explains Dr. Gording. "Not only do they need to be fitted by an optometrist, the contacts have to be inspected for nicks, edge defects or other issues that can damage the eye or cause infection."

Because of the health risk involved with costume contact lenses, it is unlawful to distribute plano (non-corrective) lenses in California without an eye examination and prescription. However costume contact lenses can still be found at various retail outlets and over the internet where there is no advice or warning about proper lens hygiene. COA encourages parents to be mindful of these dangers and wants trick-or-treaters of all ages to understand the risks involved.

To find an optometrist in your area, log onto and click on the Find an Eye Doc link.


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