Brits are risking their eyesight at Halloween by wearing dangerous novelty contact lenses.
Clinical Services Director Stephen Hannan warned: “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 on online. The problem being 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.”
Millennials are the most at risk, with many planning to wear them at Halloween as they continue to rise in popularity with famous faces including Michelle Keegan and Marnie Simpson wearing them, alongside Hollywood superstars such as Lady Gaga and Margot Robbie.
Stephen continued: “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.”
“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” says Hannan.
“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 eye health, novelty plastic contact lenses are also considered single-use plastics which are having a huge, but often overlooked impact on the environment. New figures from Optical Express, suggest that over 750 million plastic lenses are being flushed down the drain or put in landfill every year 1. These lenses form microplastics, pollute the oceans and endanger marine life. Cheap, disposable products such as these novelty lenses should be recycled and never flushed down the sink, toilet or drain or disposed of in the bin. We offer specialised recycling facilities for contact lenses and their packaging in our clinics nationwide.
A fact overlooked by many relates to the safety of contact lenses. Optical Express peer review published LASIK data 2 when compared with contact lens peer review published data3, shows that reputable contact lenses worn by patients as a daily wear modality are 4x more likely to lead to a serious sight threatening infection than LASIK surgery during each year of wear. Extended or overnight wear lenses carry a 20x greater risk per year of wear than LASIK.
- 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.
- Infectious keratitis after laser vision correction: Incidence and risk factors 2017, J. Schallhorn, S. Schallhorn, K. Hettinger, S. Hannan.
- Contact lens-related microbial keratitis: how have epidemiology and genetics helped us with pathogenesis and prophylaxis 2016 F. Stapleton, N. Carnt.