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Don’t risk your sight. Think twice before purchasing decorative lenses.

Halloween is one of the best times of the year. Friends and families get together for costume parties, fall festivals, and trick-or-treating. Everyone’s goal is to have the costume that will be remembered for years to come, but is it worth risking the capability of sight?

By Dr. Jane Edmond, pediatric ophthalmologist at Texas Children’s Hospital

Decorative contact lenses are extremely popular during this time of the year, as everyone wants to complete their costume to the very last detail. Although it would be fun to have eyes like a vampire, zombie or even a popular anime character, it is important to take precautions when purchasing decorative lenses.

Even though decorative lenses are available at local stores, they should not be purchased if the contact lenses are being sold without a doctor’s prescription. In order for contacts to be sold to an individual, that person should be seen by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, also known as an eye doctor, to ensure the eye is measured correctly for the proper fit.

If a contact lens is worn and is not the proper fit, it can cause serious damage to the eye(s). Scratches to the cornea, ulcers on the cornea, pink eye, decreased vision and blindness are just a few of the side effects.

In addition, the wearer, unless already a contact lens user, is not trained as to how to care for a contact lens, such as using the proper cleansing solution. Misuse can cause bacterial infections.

It is illegal for companies to sell any type of contact lens without a valid prescription; however, these decorative lenses are still available. No one should ever buy contact lenses from street vendors, salons or beauty supply stores, boutiques, flea markets, novelty stores, record or video stores, convenience stores, beach shops or the Internet (unless the site requires a prescription).

Decorative lenses properly fit by an eye care professional are a different story. The lens will fit properly and the wearer will be trained—just like with routine contact lenses. Once an individual has been seen by an eye doctor and receives a valid prescription, which includes brand name, lens measurements and an expiration date, they may purchase the decorative lenses from a store or online that requires a valid prescription.

Decorative lenses come in a wide variety, and most eye doctors will prescribe any of them upon the individual’s request, except for anime or circle lenses that gives the wearer a wide-eyed, doll-like look. This kind of decorative lens has not been approved by the FDA as safe for a person’s eyes.

Even though an individual may receive a prescription from his or her eye doctor, there may still be complications with the decorative contact lenses if the wearer does not correctly follow instructions. If there is any redness, eye pain or a decrease in vision, the person should make an appointment to see an eye doctor immediately.

Halloween is a fun time for everyone to dress up in a costume and be someone else for the night, but it is important to remember that, even though cheap decorative contact lenses are available without a prescription, it is never worth risking the gift of vision.

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