With Halloween right around the corner, many Brits are gearing up to don their most frightening costume to mark the occasion. With novelty contact lenses proving to be in demand during the spooky season, having become a popular costume addition, Optical Express are warning revellers about the serious consequences they can have for your eyes.
Talking about the dangers of wearing non-prescription novelty contact lenses, Clinical Services Director Stephen Hannan said: “Despite being banned in the US, cosmetic contact lenses are so easily accessible here in the UK – often sold in joke and fancy dress shops and online. The problem is that they come without instructions on safe use, resulting in a high risk of infection.
“Worse still, because they’re not prescription lenses, they are not fitted to the size and shape of your eye which can lead to corneal abrasion, scarring and, in severe cases, blindness.”
While prescription contact lenses are generally bought under the supervision of an experienced eye care professional, decorative lenses tend to be purchased from non-optical establishments such as fancy dress or novelty shops. As these are often unable to provide guidance on the cleaning, storing and proper use of these lenses, wearers run the risk of transferring a bacterial infection, or even damaging their cornea.
Stephen commented: “Not knowing the basics of using contact lenses safely can put you at higher risk of developing painful eye injuries and, in the worst cases, risk of permanent sight loss. Halloween is a busy time for us and sadly we see a surge of patients come in to see us having contracted eye infections and scarring as a result of wearing novelty contact lenses.
“Some of the cases we see are frightening, with patients sharing lenses with friends, wearing the same pair year after year, well past the expiry date, and washing them in tap water – all of which can have devastating effects.
“Contact lenses are not 'one size fits all’ and we urge anyone looking to dress up their Halloween costumes with coloured lenses to ensure they have been prescribed by an optometrist who will measure each eye to ensure a perfect fit. Any good optometrist should also evaluate how the eye responds to contact lens wear using a microscope.
“Never mess with your eyes. Always seek professional guidance from an optometrist before using novelty contact lenses.”
As well as posing a serious risk to your eye health, novelty contact lenses are also considered single-use plastics which are having a huge but often overlooked impact on the environment. Research from Optical Express revealed that of the 780 million plastic contact lenses that are used by wearers in the UK alone every year, 97% damage the environment through uncontrolled disposal*, as they are flushed down the sink, toilet or drain or disposed of in the bin.
At Optical Express, we offer specialised recycling facilities for contact lenses and their packaging in our clinics nationwide, preventing them from ending up in landfill or polluting our oceans.
*Optical Express Survey of Contact Lens Users Optical Express surveyed over 3,000 contact lens users across the UK between May and September 2019. Further information on the survey and the breakdown of responses available on request.