With Halloween right around the corner, kids and adults are on the lookout for fun and inventive costumes that will get them noticed. Adding blood red or cat-shaped eyes may seem like a minor addition to your outfit, but is it worth your eyesight? A group of federal agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are hoping to seize illegal decorative contact lenses that have the potential to cause serious retinal damage.
"Although unauthorized use of decorative contact lenses is a concern year-round, Halloween is the time when people may be inclined to use them, perhaps as costume accessories," said James Saviola from the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
Operation Double Vision is a joint effort between the FDA, Office of Criminal Investigations (OCI), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Each government agency has been tasked with seizing illegally imported decorative contact lenses that are not approved by FDA.
Even though these cosmetic lenses have been illegal since 2005, costume shoppers are still buying them at Halloween shops and beauty supply stores for around $20. UPI reports. Decorative lenses are not manufactured to meet health and safety specifications and can lead to a cut on the eye’s protective layer. The slightest wound could lead to a bacterial infection known as keratitis, which can result in temporary or permanent blindness.
"Our concern is that consumers who buy and use decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription can run significant risks of eye injuries, including blindness," said John Roth, director of the FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations. "It is always better to involve a qualified eye care professional and protect your vision."
According to the FDA, anyone looking to wear decorative lenses should schedule an eye exam with a registered eye care professional, obtain a valid prescription, purchase it through a licensed eye care professional or vendor, and make sure directions are followed for wearing and cleaning. If you notice swelling, pain, redness, or discomfort after wearing decorative lenses, seek immediate medical attention.
“I understand how tempting it is to dress up your eyes on Halloween without a prescription and using over-the-counter lenses,” said Thomas Steinemann, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “But people should not let one night of fun ruin their vision for a lifetime."