A local optician is warning Halloween enthusiasts to think twice about wearing costume contact lenses.
Jason Carruthers, director of Orbit Contact Lens Institute in Tecumseh, says costume contacts — lenses that add wild colours and designs to the eye — can severely damage sight if the product is of poor quality, ill-fitting, or not used properly.
“There are well-documented cases of people going blind with these types of lenses,” Carruthers said. “I want to warn people that this is serious. We’re talking about your vision.”
The contact lens material can cause harm, he said. If they’re not made of the right stuff, are designed poorly, or are not sterile, “it could cause corneal ulcers or an allergic reaction. That can lead to blindness.” Even if the lens material is decent, the lenses might not fit an individual’s eyes well.
“That’s why we’re called contact lens fitters,” Carruthers said. “You have to go for a contact lens fitting because if the lens doesn’t fit properly, it can cause similar eye damage.”
With more than 25 years as an optician, he said he’s seen patients develop corneal ulcers (an infection that causes an open sore on the eye’s cornea) after wearing costume contacts.
Carruthers is not the only one ringing the alarm bells about costume lenses. In recent years, Health Canada has begun classifying decorative contact lenses as medical devices due to their potential health risks. As a result, lenses must have a medical device licence and be labelled according to medical device regulations to be sold in Canada.
On its website, Health Canada cautions that decorative contacts can cause cuts or scratches on the eye, allergic reactions, vision impairment, infections, and blindness.
Those who want funky contacts can still buy and wear them safely, Carruthers said. To do so, they should visit an eye care practitioner to have a lens fitting, purchase trustworthy contacts, and learn how to handle them properly.
Although problem costume lenses tend to do damage around Halloween, Carruthers said they cause issues year-round. Even those with transparent prescription contact lenses can face the same challenges if they order their contacts online without a proper fitting or instructions.
If you’ve already bought a pair of costume lenses, Carruthers cautioned that it’s especially important to avoid falling asleep wearing them, since they might not provide oxygen to the eye. Also, do not share your contact lenses with anyone else.
“If you notice any irritation, discomfort or pain, you should take them off right away because they’re not supposed to be uncomfortable,” he said, adding eye redness or sudden foggy or cloudy vision is also cause for concern.
Carruthers encouraged parents not to let their kids trick-or-treat unsupervised in costume contacts, since some of them have designs that partially obstruct vision.