Considering Novelty Contact Lenses This Halloween? Visit Your Optometrist First.

Halloween is around the corner. If you’re considering purchasing novelty or special effect contact lenses to perfect your cat, devil or zombie look, keep your eyes safe and plan a trip to your optometrist first.

Why should I go to an optometrist before I order novelty contact lenses?

While novelty contact lenses are easily accessible from online retailers and other sources, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns not to buy novelty contact lenses that don’t require prescriptions. Purchasing novelty contact lenses without a prescription can result in infections or even significant damage to the eye, which could lead to irreversible sight loss.

What damage can non-prescription special effects contact lenses cause?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, non-prescription (unfitted) contact lenses can cut, scratch and infect your eye. Corneal abrasions, corneal ulcers, and potentially blinding painful bacterial infections, like keratitis, can all result from poorly-fitted lenses.

What happens during a contact lens fitting?

During the contact lens fitting, the optometrist will:

  • Measure your eyes to fit the contacts properly – Poorly fitted contact lenses can cause irritation or damage to the eye. During the fitting, the doctor will measure corneal curvature and pupil or iris size. Some special effect contact lenses are not suitable for those who have astigmatism (an irregularly shaped cornea). An optometrist will be able to advise which lenses offer the best fit.
  • Assess whether or not you are a good candidate for contact lenses – Not everyone can wear contact lenses. People who have frequent eye infections, severe allergies, or dry eye may not be good candidates for contact lenses. A tear film test is performed to determine if your eyes produce sufficient hydration to keep the lenses moist. Since novelty contact lenses contain paints or pigments, the lenses are thicker and less breathable. If your tear film is not sufficient, the lenses may dry out and cause irritation or even damage.
  • Instruct you on appropriate contact lens wear and care – During the appointment, you will receive instruction on how to handle and clean lenses to avoid irritation and infection. The optometrist will also tell you how long you should wear your novelty contact lenses. As always, you should never sleep in any contact lenses unless they are designed for overnight wear.

What is the cost of the contact lens fitting?

The fees for contact lens evaluations vary among providers and the eye condition for which the contact lenses are being prescribed. Vision benefit programs do not cover fittings for novelty contact lenses as they are not medically necessary or required for vision correction. Talk to your optometrist’s office about the cost of a fitting before you go.

Once I obtain a prescription, where should I purchase novelty contact lenses?

Once you receive a prescription, be sure to purchase from retailers who require a prescription to purchase the lenses and who only sell FDA-approved contact lenses.

Are novelty contact lenses safe if you have a prescription?

It’s important to note that there are always risks to wearing contact lenses. Even under the best supervision, injury and infections can occur  Visit an optometrist who can help you fully understand the risks and instruct you on how to keep your eyes safe.

Your vision is too valuable to lose.  To learn more about the dangers of unprescribed novelty or special effect contact lenses, watch Julian’s story produced by the American Academy of Ophthalmology.