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

Generic Over-The-Counter (OTC) Products Available – What Type Should I Get?

Generic Over-The-Counter (OTC) Products Available – What Type Should I Get?

Prescription Brand vs. Generic
Before we answer the question on what type of Generic OTC products are available, let’s first discuss the difference between prescription brand and generic. It takes about 10 years and costs about $1 billion for pharmaceutical companies to develop a drug that meets rigorous drug testing and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. After approval, the drug is launched under a “Brand Name” (also known as Trade Name) that is usually more likeable and interesting than the actual chemical name for the drug.

Once a drug’s patent expires, other drug companies may pursue the generic form of the drug without having to undergo FDA approval. This is when the medication is called “Generic” and the drug is called by its chemical name. These companies have a simpler process where they just need to match dosage, route of administration, and concentration of the active ingredient. The branded drug is still available but once the generic form of the drug is launched, most insurance companies will cover generic at a lower copay compared to a branded medication.

In order for a prescription medication to become available OTC, the drug manufacturer must apply for a new drug application. The FDA reviews the safety profile, effectiveness of the medication and whether the condition the medication is indicated for is self-diagnosable.

Once the medication has received approval for OTC status, patients have the opportunity to save on cost by avoiding expensive branded medications that are not covered by their insurance. However, self-treating assumes the patient can accurately self-diagnose the condition. The patient also must deal with choosing from a wide array of eyedrops available over-the-counter.

Types of Generic OTC Products
If you have eye discomfort, you have the option of choosing between artificial tears or eye drops for ocular allergies. Artificial tears may provide temporary relief of dry eyes for patients that have intermittent symptoms. However, if your eye problem is specifically redness and itchy eyes related to ocular allergies, there are two generic medications that no longer need a prescription.

• Pheniramine Maleate/Naphazoline Hydrochloride (Active Ingredients)
Pheniramine Maleate is an antihistamine to stop the itch and Naphazoline Hydrochloride is a decongestant/vasoconstrictor that gets the red out. Both of these are the active ingredients for Naphcon-A, Opcon-A, and Visine-A. The dosage is one to two drops up to four times a day. For patients that have anatomically narrow angle or narrow angle glaucoma, this eye drop is contraindicated. Adverse reactions include dilation of pupils, increased eye redness, irritation, discomfort, blurry vision, punctate keratitis (a breakdown of the cells in the cornea), increased tearing, and elevated eye pressures. It is advised to use these drops for short-term use only due to risk of rebound hyperemia. This means overuse of an eye drop that shrinks the eye’s blood vessels may cause the vessels to become more fragile with time. Eventually a reverse effect may occur where the blood vessels stop shrinking and instead expand to a point where the red eyes are worse than before.

• Ketotifen Fumarate
This ingredient is found in Zaditor (Alcon), Alaway (Bausch & Lomb), Zyrtec Itchy Eye Drops, and Claritin Eye Drops. The dosage is one drop twice daily, every 8-12 hours. Common side effects are redness of the eyes, headache and rhinitis. Interestingly this also has a dilation of the pupil side effect but the incidence is low.

What Type of Generic OTC Eye Drop Should I Get?
We’ve finally reached the point where we can answer this question. If you can accurately self-diagnose your eye problem and determine ocular allergies is the proper diagnosis, you may consider Ketotifen Fumarate. Keep in mind that many patients fail on OTC eye drops. Truly, the best treatment relies on an accurate diagnosis. I advise making an appointment with your optometrist to examine your eyes and provide the correct diagnosis. Rather than asking what type of eye drop should I get, the better question to ask is how do I accurately diagnose my eye problem? If you agree your eyes deserve the best, then stop self-diagnosing and call for an appointment with your local optometrist.

Margie Recalde, OD, FAAO

California Optometric Association

Corneal Cross Linking:  Halting Keratoconus Progression

Corneal Cross Linking:  Halting Keratoconus Progression

What is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is a bilateral, progressive disorder of the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye) which causes it to thin and bulge into the shape of a cone. Prevalence is about 1 in 2000. This cone shaped curvature causes a loss of vision similar to taking a picture through a warped camera lens.  The cause of keratoconus is not completely understood, however underlying genetic factors have been shown to play a large part and the genes responsible for it have been identified. Not everyone with the keratoconus gene gets the condition, so environmental factors such as allergies and resultant chronic eye rubbing, are believed to play a part in turning the genes on. Continue reading

Kaleidoscopes, Zig Zags and Other Weird Visual Disturbances

Kaleidoscopes, Zig Zags and Other Weird Visual Disturbances

Many patients come in to see me with the same complaint: “I had this weird kaleidoscope/zig-zagging lines/Bart Simpson’s hair in my vision last week!” They all, almost without fault, say the weird visual phenomenon started, then got a little bigger, and then smaller and then went away, in total lasting 20-30 minutes. It can be pretty scary the first time you see it; even I was freaked out the first time I experienced it, and I knew what it was! When I tell patients they have had an ocular or visual migraine, usually they reply, “But I didn’t have a headache.” And that is true, a visual migraine is not followed by a headache. A visual migraine, by definition, is a visual aura without a headache afterward. Each person experiences it a little differently, but the photo below is a visualization of the most common descriptions. Continue reading

America’s Sweetheart Spreads Eyelove

America’s Sweetheart Spreads Eyelove

Jennifer Aniston has everything – looks, talent, fame, and fortune. The gorgeous actress was crowned the World’s Most Beautiful Woman by ‘People’ magazine for the third time in 2016. At age 48, she maintains her natural beauty and age-defying physique by eating an incredibly healthy diet and incorporating a daily workout routine. It’s no surprise that people follow her diet and exercise tips in hopes of matching her amazing figure. Continue reading

Tips for Controlling Nearsightedness

Tips for Controlling Nearsightedness

Myopia (nearsightedness) is the ability to see well at near but the inability to see well at distance without corrective help, such as glasses. Myopia is primarily caused by “axial elongation” (an eyeball that grows to long). Myopia is considered an optical condition of the eye, not a medial condition, and therefore treatment is not usually covered by medical insurances. Continue reading