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Beware of colored contacts, experts warn. An infection could haunt you this Halloween

“The consequences of using costume lenses are much scarier than the zombie eye you may have been going for,” said Dr. Dianna Seldomridge, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Red contact lenses
A woman wears red contact lenses at a Halloween event in Kawasaki, near Tokyo, on Oct. 28, 2012. (Itsuo Inouye | AP)

Eye doctors are urging Halloween costume fanatics to beware of colored contact lenses labeled “one size fits all” or “no need to see an eye doctor,” both messages of which are false.

Even if you have perfect vision, you need to complete an eye exam and receive a prescription from a doctor before wearing contacts because they need to be properly fitted, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Otherwise you run the risk of developing open sores or scratches on your cornea that increase your chances of being haunted by an eye infection long after Halloween fun is over.

In severe cases, you can lose your vision and need a corneal transplant to restore your sight.

Laura Butler of West Virginia told the AAO she wore colored contacts she bought at a souvenir shop for 10 hours and later felt “extreme pain in both eyes. Because I had not been properly fitted by an eye care professional, the lenses stuck to my eye like a suction cup.”

Butler was left with an infection and a​ major scratch on her cornea.

“I was in severe pain and on medication for four weeks and couldn’t see well enough to drive for eight weeks,” Butler told the group in July. “I now live with a corneal scar, vision damage and a drooping eyelid.”

If you ​think colored contacts will take your costume to the next level, the group advises buying them from retailers ​that require prescriptions and only sell FDA-approved products. Any others typically found in online stores, beauty salons or pop-up Halloween stores are illegal in the U.S.

“As you look for safe ways to celebrate Halloween this year, don’t neglect safety precautions related to your costume choices,” Dr. Dianna Seldomridge, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said in a news release. “Costume contact lenses may seem like the perfect, easy way to complete your spooky look. But the consequences of using costume lenses are much scarier than the zombie eye you may have been going for.”

Here’s how to safely wear colored contacts this Halloween:

  • Only wear colored contacts for up to four or five hours. Dyes and other materials in the lenses can restrict oxygen flow to your cornea.
  • Never share your eye makeup or contacts, colored or not, with others. Doing so can spread bacteria and potentially cause infections, such as pink eye.
  • Make sure you properly clean your contacts.
  • Do not go to sleep with your contacts on, even if you have a prescription.
  • Buy only FDA-approved contact lenses that have been fitted to your eyes.

If you notice your eyes begin to swell, turn red, produce discharge or cause pain, seek medical attention right away, experts say. Eye infections can quickly become serious, sometimes causing irreversible damage.

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