Experts warn about dangers of cosmetic contact lenses at Halloween

Optometrists have issued a public warning about the dangers of decorative or special effect contact lenses for Halloween which place eye-sight at risk.

The Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) said there has been a worrying growth in the purchase of cosmetic contact lenses in recent years, which are sold on-line and in pop up costume shops, as a part of Halloween outfits.

AOI Optometric Advisor Lynda McGivney Nolan said that people do not realise that the sale of such lenses is illegal and they have been proven to place eyes at increased risk of damage. She advised the public against buying and using them.

“Members of the Association of Optometrists have reported an increase in eye complications at Halloween in recent years, arising from wearing cosmetic or special effect contact lenses as part of costumes. We are issuing a strong warning to the public not to buy or use these lenses.

“Contact lenses are not ‘one size fits all’ and improperly fitting contact lenses, or the wrong type of material can cause damage to the cornea, ulceration, conjunctivitis, or blurred vision. At its worst bacterial infection resulting from incorrect contact lens wear can cause vision loss within 24 hours.Harmful bacteria adhere tightly to the surface pigments on cosmetic contact lenses, particularly cheap brands.”

A 2016 study carried out in Boston on the impact of unauthorised sales of contact lenses cited a significant increase in reported complications resulting from illegally purchased contact lenses.

The study found that the majority of consumers purchasing the lenses were young adults and the illegal sellers of the lenses did not adhere to international protocols including the requirement for a prescription.

These findings are supported by many other studies into the risks associated with the sale of cosmetic and vision corrective contact lenses over the internet, or from illegal providers, which all showed that the wearers of such lenses were at a significantly higher risk of acute sight-threatening infections and inflammations.

Ms. McGivney Nolan continued:

“The purchase of any contact lens should only be made with a valid current prescription. Supply of contact lenses without an eye examination and prescription is illegal because it is dangerous.

“Contact lenses are a regulated medical product and may only be supplied and fitted by an Optometrist who has been professionally trained in the safe supply, insertion, removal, sterilisation and care of the lenses.”