American Academy of Ophthalmology Warns Halloween Shoppers about the Scary Risks of...

American Academy of Ophthalmology Warns Halloween Shoppers about the Scary Risks of Buying Costume Contact Lenses without a Prescription

Wearing these popular accessories can cause serious eye injuries and lead to permanent vision loss


FRANCISCO, Oct. 2, 2013 /PRNewswire-HISPANIC PR WIRE/ — As people across the
country start shopping for their perfect Halloween costume and are tempted to
complete their look with costume contact lenses bought without a prescription,
ophthalmologists – medical doctors specializing in the diagnosis, medical and
surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions – are warning consumers that
doing so can lead to permanent vision loss.





Although the practice has been illegal since 2005, today cosmetic contact lenses
are still sold in shops and via online retailers to customers who are unaware
that wearing these devices can result in serious eye injuries. The American
Academy of Ophthalmology warns that the lenses, which may not be manufactured to
meet federal health and safety standards, can cause injuries such as cuts and
open sores in the protective layer of the iris and pupil (

and ulcers) and potentially blinding painful bacterial infections (
These injuries can require serious eye surgeries such as corneal transplants,
and in some cases lead to permanent vision loss. One study found that wearing
cosmetic contact lenses increased the keratitis risk by more than 16 times.[1] 


Federal law classifies all contact lenses as medical devices and restricts their
distribution to licensed eye care professionals. Illegal sale of contact lenses
can result in civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation.


“What happens to people’s eyes after just one evening of wearing
non-prescription costume contact lenses is tragic,” said Thomas Steinemann,
M.D., professor of ophthalmology, MetroHealth Medical Center and Case Western
Reserve University in Cleveland and a clinical spokesperson for the American
Academy of Ophthalmology. “It all could have been avoided if these patients just
took a little extra time to obtain a prescription and only wore FDA- approved
lenses. I understand how tempting it is to dress up your eyes on Halloween
without a prescription and using over-the-counter lenses, but people should not
let one night of fun ruin their vision for a lifetime.”


safely wear decorative contact lenses this Halloween or any time of year, the
Academy of Ophthalmology

recommends following these guidelines:


  • Only buy decorative contact lenses from an eye care professional such as an
    ophthalmologist or a retailer that requires a prescription and sells
    FDA-approved products.

  • If you don’t already have a contact lens prescription, obtain a valid
    prescription and eye exam from an ophthalmologist or optometrist, a health
    care professional who provides primary vision care ranging from sight
    testing and correction to the diagnosis, treatment and management of vision

  • Even for those with perfect vision, an eye exam and prescription are
    mandatory in order to fit the right size contacts. Do not fall victim to
    false advertising claims and lenses labeled as “one size fits all” or “no
    need to see an eye specialist.”

  • Follow the directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the lenses.
    Contacts that are left in for too long or that are not properly cleaned and
    disinfected can significantly increase the risk of an

    eye infection.

  • Never share contact lenses with another person or wear expired lenses.

  • If you notice redness, swelling, excessive discharge, pain or discomfort
    from wearing contact lenses, remove the lenses and seek immediate medical
    attention from an ophthalmologist. Eye infections like keratitis can quickly
    become serious and cause blindness if left untreated.


more information on decorative contact lens safety or to find an Eye M.D., visit



View the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s



public service announcements.


About the American Academy of Ophthalmology 

American Academy of Ophthalmology, headquartered in San Francisco, is the
world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons — 

— with more than 32,000 members worldwide.  Eye health care is provided by the
three “O’s” – 
optometrists, and opticians
It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who has the education and training to
treat it all: eye diseases, infections and injuries, and perform eye surgery.
For more information, visit



Academy’s EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye
health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most
trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and
injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit
 or to
learn more.


Sauer, A., & Bourcier, T. (2011). Microbial keratitis as a foreseeable
complication of cosmetic contact lenses: A prospective study.

Acta Ophthalmologica 89 (5), pp. e439-e422. DOI:



Academy of Ophthalmology

American Academy of Ophthalmology Warns Halloween Shoppers about the Scary Risks of Buying Costume Contact Lenses without a Prescription