Colored contact lenses are a popular topic this time of year as many people prepare their Halloween costumes. How fun is it to have a cool accessory like tiger eyes, cat eyes or red or white eyes to complement the most creative of costume? Colored contacts are a great fun option. There are also many people who like to wear colored contact lenses daily to make their eyes more blue, more green, more brown or a different color all together!
However, most people do not realize that even contacts worn for cosmetic purposes still pose a potential health risk for the eye if not properly fitted. This is true even if there is no prescription on the lens. Contact lenses are classified as “medical devices” with the FDA. Regardless of a corrective prescription, contacts are plastic on the surface of the eye and need to be fit properly and be taken care of properly to lessen the chance of vision threatening infections such as corneal ulcers.
Doctors of optometry perform additional tests above and beyond the glasses and eye health examinations when fitting contacts. We evaluate the size and shape of the cornea, the health of the tear layer and the fitting relationship between the cornea (the outer surface of the eye where the lens sits) and the contacts lens to insure the safest most appropriate lens for each individual patient. We also educate patients on the best cleaning and wearing regimen for the them. This greatly reduces any complications associated with contact lens use.
Buying contact lenses without a doctor’s prescription is something that happens with colored contacts often. This practice leads to rise in vision threatening conditions that could be prevented with a proper contact lens examination. So, buy a different kind Halloween contact lens for each Halloween party this season, but get a prescription first!
~Lisa Weiss, OD, MEd, FCOVDCalifornia Optometric Association