It’s that time of year again. There’s a comfortable nip in the air as the temperatures turn cooler. The changing fall leaves are putting on a fantastic show of color, the smell of cider donuts and apple pie fill the air, and yards are adorned with hay bales, cornstalks, pumpkins and of course, fun and often scary Halloween decorations. It’s a time of year that brings fun and laughter to so many as Halloween draws closer and October comes to an end.
Countless people are getting in on the Halloween costume craze these days. Office dress codes are relaxed and staff are often allowed to “dress up” for the day. School children dress up and enjoy an afternoon of Halloween treats and a celebration. Today’s costumes are creative. They can be fun, interesting, witty or downright terrifying if done correctly. This often means accessorizing with the latest and greatest products available, safe or not. A common accessory these days is costume lenses. These over the counter contact lenses are all the rage. They are so common this time of year that they are readily available online, in novelty shops, beauty salons, even gas stations of all places.
But WAIT!!! Aren’t contacts available only with a prescription? Are these contacts safe? Should I take a chance? These are good questions and they should send a signal that wearing over the
counter contacts may not be in the public’s best interest. However, while these questions arise, the general public views these cosmetic contacts as nothing more than a simple accessory to complete the look. After all, it’s only for a few hours or a day at most. What could go wrong in that short time frame? Read on…
Contacts – The good, the bad and the ugly!
Contact lenses are a wonderful product if used properly. There are many people with corneal disease that can only achieve their best corrected vision with a specialty fitted contact lens. Glasses just don’t cut it. Others choose contacts for comfort and convenience, especially athletes and those leading a very active lifestyle. However, they require a certain level of care to be able to wear them effectively. Contacts are considered a medical device since they sit directly on the eye. They must be FDA approved and require an annual eye exam and current prescription in order to purchase. They must be taken out regularly and cleaned with a special lens cleaning solution. They should NEVER be slept in, regardless of what the packaging says. Failure to adhere to the proper care and maintenance schedule can lead to disaster.
Some common problems from misuse or overuse of contact lenses are general irritation, corneal abrasions, light sensitivity, dry eye and conjunctivitis. These problems are all treatable but may require not wearing contacts for a period of time and even changing the contact altogether to a different type that gives a better fit. For this reason it is so important to get an annual exam from a licensed professional to check the fit and health of the eye.
In addition to the problems stated above, some contact lens wearers develop recurrent infections and corneal ulcers. A severe infection will require numerous visits to an eye care professional, and a strict regime of antibiotic drops to get rid of the infection. This can be costly and cumbersome. A corneal ulcer can be extremely painful and may require a more aggressive course of action. Some corneal ulcers are so horrific that they lead to numerous visits to the doctor, corneal scarring, the need for corneal transplants and even blindness. This can occur from misuse of FDA approved lenses.
So what about those over the counter costume lenses? Are they worth the risk? As noted above, contact lenses are an FDA approved product. Over the counter lenses that can be purchased online or at novelty shops and the like, come with a host of problems associated with them. Some of these are as follows:
• Irritation and extreme pain due to poor fit
• Sticking to eye (suction cup effect) due to incorrect fit
• Leaching of chemicals (chlorine) from costume contacts. The dies used to color and pattern the lenses can be toxic to the eye.
• Inflammation of the cornea due to incorrect fit or decreased oxygen to the eye.
While these lenses may put you over the top at the costume contest, they are NOT worth the risk. The potential for vision threatening or blinding complications could last a lifetime. Many of the problems associated with these illegal over the counter lenses do not go away when Halloween is over. So, the choice is yours. One day of fun and a multitude of problems, or clear, unobstructed, beautiful vision for a lifetime.
Your eyes are the window to your soul and your window to the world.
You only have 2 eyes and they work best when used together. Make an informed decision. I would not take the risk…
For more information go to www.aao.org/eye-health/news.
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