The Hazards of Halloween Contacts


Halloween is a special time of year where children often dress up as their favorite character.  Not to be left out, adults often join in on the fun and are inclined to spend more money on costumes than ever before. For extra costume emphasis, some adults might consider over-the-counter (OTC) cosmetic contact lenses. OTC cosmetic contact lenses are a tempting option because they are inexpensive and easily accessible at stores, swap meets and online.  Yet, people fail to realize that this final touch to their costume may wreak havoc to the health of their eyes.

Why are OTC cosmetic contacts hazardous?

Contacts are not a one size fits all fit.  Think of contacts in terms of shoe sizes. Although you try shoes of the same size, each shoe style fits differently. The wrong size can result in blisters and aching feet.  With contacts, an incorrectly fitted lens can cause serious ocular complications including infections, abrasions, ulcers, scarring, permanent vision loss and even blindness.  These complications may occur within 24 hours of wearing contacts if not diagnosed and treated quickly by an eye care professional.

Where to purchase cosmetic contacts that are safe for Halloween?

Contact lenses are medical devices that require a prescription from an eye care professional. Schedule an eye exam with an eye care professional to discuss your cosmetic contact options.  If a retailer informs you a prescription is not required, be scared.  Be very scared!  If you suspect illegal contact lens sales, please report these retailers to

How to keep the eyes healthy when wearing prescription cosmetic contacts?

A crucial step in eye health is visiting a licensed eye care professional for an eye exam. You can then obtain a prescription for cosmetic contacts and purchase them from a retailer that requires a valid contact lens prescription.  In addition, it’s important to properly clean and care for your contacts and do not sleep overnight with your contacts. You can discuss this process during your exam.

When it comes to OTC cosmetic Halloween contacts, the risk is not worth the benefit.  Ocular complications from these types of contacts may occur rapidly.  Your eyes deserve the best care possible. One day of fun and silliness with cheap OTC cosmetic contacts may turn into a lifetime of regret.  Be safe and choose wisely.

Margie Recalde, OD, FAAO

Why is my vision fluctuating? Dry eye could be the answer.

Blood capillary human eye

Is your vision affected by dry eyes? Dry eye disease (DED) is one of the most frequently encountered ocular conditions. In fact, 25% percent of patients who visit eye care practitioners report symptoms of dry eye, making it one of the most common conditions.1 The prevalence of DED is estimated to be 7.4% to 33.7% depending on which study is cited, how the disease is diagnosed, and which population is surveyed.2, 3

Recently the Dry Eye Workshop (DEWS) II report was released by the Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society (TFOS), highlighting the importance of dry eye diagnosis and management.

There are many symptoms associated with dry eye including dryness, itching, burning, foreign body sensation, watery eyes and visual fluctuation. Dry eye may impact daily activities such as reading, night driving, watching TV, working on the computer and contact lens wear.4-6 If you have any of these symptoms or your contact lenses are not comfortable all day long, you may have dry eye. Many people with dry eye have not been diagnosed. Thirty million American adults report symptoms of DED7-8 and about 16 million American adults have been diagnosed with this condition.9

Dry eye symptoms are variable and quite common.

The healthy tear film is a delicate balance composed of mucin, proteins, aqueous and lipid components. In chronic dry eye, the concentrations of certain tear proteins are reduced. Patients with an altered tear film due to dry eye can result in symptoms of discomfort, ocular surface damage and visual disturbances, potentially impacting a range of daily activities.

A prospective multicenter study of 217 dry eye patients titled Progression of Ocular Findings (PROOF), evaluated the natural history of dry eye over 5 years.10 In this study, 57% of dry eye patients considered their vision to be moderate, severe or very severe compared to 10.5% for control subjects.

If you think your eyes may be dry or have any symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor of optometry today.

Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO


  1. O’Brien PD, Collum LM. Dry eye: diagnosis and current treatment strategies. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2004; 4:314–319.
  2. Lin PY, Tsai SY, Cheng CY, et al. Prevalence of dry eye among an elderly Chinese population in Taiwan: The Shihpai eye study. Ophthalmology. 2003;110:1096–1101.
  3. McCarty CA, Bansal AK, Livingston PM, et al. The epidemiology of dry eye in Melbourne, Australia. Ophthalmology. 1998;105:1114–1119.
  4. Dry Eye WorkShop. The definition and classification of dry eye disease: report of the Definition and Classification Subcommittee of the International Dry Eye WorkShop (2007). Ocul Surf. 2007;5(2):75-92.
  5. Walker PM, Lane KJ, Ousler GW III, Abelson MB. Diurnal variation of visual function and the signs and symptoms of dry eye. Cornea. 2010;29(6):607-612.
  6. Miljanović B, Dana R, Sullivan DA, Schaumberg DA. Impact of dry eye syndrome on vision-related quality of life. Am J Ophthalmol. 2007;143(3):409-415.
  7. Paulsen AJ, Cruickshanks KJ, Fischer ME, et al. Dry eye in the beaver dam offspring study: prevalence, risk factors, and health-related quality of life. Am J Ophthalmol. 2014;157(4):799-806.
  8. US Census Bureau. Annual estimates of the resident population for selected age groups by sex for the United States, States, Counties, and Puerto Rico Commonwealth and Municipios: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014.
    PEP_2014_PEPAGESEX_HI.pdf. Published June 24, 2015. Accessed January 14, 2017.
  9. Data on file. SHP606-801. Shire US Inc; 2016.
  10. McDonnell P, et al. Progression of Ocular Findings (PROOF) Study of the Natural History of Dry Eye: Study Design and Baseline Pa9ent Characteris9cs. ARVO meeting Abstracts June 16, 2013 54:4338.