Every year, the approach of Halloween heightens fears at FDA that consumers will harm their eyes with unapproved decorative contact lenses. These are lenses that some people use to temporarily change their eye color or to make their eyes look weird—perhaps giving them an “eye-of-the-tiger” look.
“Although unauthorized use of decorative contact lenses is a concern year-round, Halloween is the time when people may be inclined to use them, perhaps as costume accessories,” says James Saviola, the Ophthalmic and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices Network Leader in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
The problem is not that people use decorative, non-corrective lenses. It’s that many go about it the wrong way, which is dangerous.
Just like their corrective counterparts, decorative contacts—sometimes called plano, zero-powered or non-corrective lenses—are regulated by FDA.
“What troubles us is when they are bought and used without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care,” says Saviola. “This can lead to significant risks of eye injuries, including blindness.”
FDA is aware that consumers without valid prescriptions have bought decorative contact lenses from beauty salons, record stores, video stores, flea markets, convenience stores, beach shops and the Internet.
Recent legislation has made it illegal to market decorative contact lenses as over-the-counter products.
Unauthorized contact lenses of all types present risks to the eye that include corneal ulcers, corneal abrasion, vision impairment, and blindness.