Decorative contact lenses

These are the medical devices regulated by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are not intended for vision correction, but are used to glorify the eyes by changing its colour. They temporarily change the look of a person’s eyes, usually for halloween or any other occasion. They are available in various colours and designs. Decorative contact lenses are also called by other names, cosmetic contact lenses, theatrical contact lenses, fashion contact lenses, coloured contact lenses, costume contact lenses and Halloween contact lenses.

These coloured contact lenses require a strict eye testing and prescription prior to their use, similar to that of corrective contact lenses. Purchasing from a street vendor, novelty store, flea market or beauty supply store, damage the cornea and could lead to vision loss.

Decorated or not, follow the prescription

Eye size differs from person to person. Eye test from an ophthalmologist or optometrist is essential to properly fit the lenses. There’s no such thing as ‘one size fits all’. Lenses that do not fit properly result in eye damage, including:

  • Scratches on the cornea
  • Corneal infection
  • Conjunctivitis (red eye)
  • Decreased vision
  • Blindness

Places that sell decorative contact lenses without a prescription are illegal and violate the laws. They do not provide the consumer with information on cleaning and safety precautions for lenses. It’s not only the decorative contact lenses but also the improper care employed by the consumers that is destructive to the eyes.

Circle lenses which give a ‘doe-eyed’ or Anime effect, are bigger in size and extend past the iris. This makes the iris look enlarged. Because of their irregularly large size, circle lenses posses higher risk of eye infections.

Risks outweigh benefits!

Wearing decorative contact lenses or corrective lenses requires a great deal of care by the consumer. Nonprescription lenses can result in cuts or open sores in the protective layer of the iris of the pupil and potential bacterial infections. Some of these injuries require surgeries such as corneal transplants and lead to permanent vision loss in the long run.

One of the recent studies, on costume contact lenses, found an increased risk of developing keratitis (bacterial infection). The risk was found to be 16 times more in people wearing costume lenses when compared to their counterparts wearing corrective contact lenses. Permanent vision loss was observed in 60% of the patients who developed keratitis.

American Academy of Opthalmology issued a warning on the illegal selling of over-the-counter costume contact lenses, after several varieties were tested positive for chlorine and other harmful chemicals. Costume contact lenses are hugely popular in Japan. Researchers from Japan recently found chlorine and iron in these lenses. According to the researchers, the colourants used to create playful patterns contain these chemicals.

Look out for the signs of possible eye infection, which include:

  • Redness
  • Pain in the eye
  • Itching
  • Blurred vision

Be Eyesmart!

All types of decorative contact lenses require proper caring to keep the eyes healthy and beautiful.

  • Consult an optometrist to get a prescribed contact lens size
  • Do not purchase decorative contact lenses from illegal places
  • Don’t buy anime or circle lenses
  • Follow directions for cleaning and disinfecting the lenses
  • Never swap or share lenses with others
  • Rinse lenses with contact lens disinfecting solution
  • Even if worn occasionally, disinfect lenses at least once in 7 days
  • Never store costume contact lenses in water
  • Never sleep while wearing contact lenses unless they serve the purpose of extended-wear
  • Follow up your eye-care provider

Seek immediate medical attention if you notice redness, itching, blurred vision or swelling.

-Dr. Aparajita Deshpande

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