Warning: Colored Halloween contacts can pose serious health risks

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With Halloween here, costume contact lenses — everything from cat eyes, zombies, to bright yellow or red lenses — are all the rage. But if you’re considering conjuring a super-spooky look by wearing these lenses, you might want to re-think your costume.

Experts say over-the-counter contact lenses could cause serious damage to your eyes.

A new warning from the Federal Trade Commission says, “Anyone who sells you lenses without first looking at your prescription or asking for your eye doctor’s contact information is selling them illegally.”

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Health officials and optometrists warn of spooky contact lenses

Doctors and health officials across the country have issued warnings to consumers about the colorful contact lenses people buy to make their Halloween costumes look even spookier. According to them, the scariest part about these contact lenses is what they can do to your eyes.

Cheap over-the-counter Halloween lenses are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means they carry a high level of risk.

The Pennsylvania departments of Health and State and the attorney general issued a warning to Pennsylvania residents saying the lenses sold at Halloween stores are dangerous to people’s eyes — and selling them over the counter is actually illegal.

“You are at great risk for a serious injury if you use unfitted contact lenses that have not been prescribed to you by your doctor,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy. “Risks of using an unfitted lens include blindness, infections, allergic reactions or even the loss of an eye.”

A Georgia optometrist issued a similar warning.

“If you’re not careful, one night of using knock-off lenses to change your appearance can mean a permanent change in your ability to see for the rest of your life,” said Dr. Ben Casella, president of the Georgia Optometric Association.


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Wearing cheap lenses could result in blindness

Unfortunately, this was the case for a teenage girl in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, who wore a set of contacts purchased at a mall and ended up partly blind in her right eye. She had worn them only four hours.

“A contact lens that’s not fitting properly can squeeze the cornea and block blood vessels at edge of the cornea. It can be sight-threatening. Also, you don’t know the source of the contact lenses, if they’re sterile-packed, how old they are… It’s just like getting a drug from Mexico online instead of your pharmacist,” Dr. Elizabeth Becker, an optometrist in Oxford told the Detroit Free Press.

The FDA cites these potential dangers of wearing cheap over-the-counter lenses:

  • Scratches on the cornea (the clear dome of tissue over the iris—the part of the eye that gives you your eye color)
  • Corneal infection (an ulcer or sore on the cornea)
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Decreased vision
  • Blindness

But what if you still really want that zombie or cat-eye look? The FDA says to order them from a licensed eye doctor. Buying costume lenses cheap is not worth the potential damage to your eyes.

RELATED: 5 ways to spend less on Halloween

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