As Halloween fast approaches, many of us will be busy planning costumes. Witches, ghosts and vampires might seem a scary prospect, but a real fear should be the risk of novelty contact lenses. The products which have become increasingly popular can give the wearer a lot more than just a glow in the dark effect, posing a serious risk to the health of those who wear them.
Peter McGrath, Chair of the Optical Registration Board at CORU, has offered the following advice to the Public:
“Novelty contact lenses might look like fun and be great in pictures but they are very dangerous. Contact lenses are a medical device and must only ever be used with a valid prescription. The only person qualified to provide a prescription of contact lenses is a CORU registered optometrist or dispensing optician or a doctor. In fact, if anyone else sells you contact lenses they are breaking the law.
“When you get assessed for contact lenses a number of factors are examined including your eye shape, size and tear quality. Optometrists use a special machine called a slit lamp and instil a dye called fluorescein to show if there is any corneal damage. This is all designed to ensure you can wear contact lenses safely and to choose the right lens for you. When you buy these cosmetic lenses from an unauthorised seller you haven’t received any of these safety checks.”
“While these products are always dangerous there is added concern about the nature of Halloween parties. Many people will wear lenses for far too long, something they would have been warned about if they had bought lenses from a registered optometrist. Alcohol can dry out your eyes meaning the risks are once again increased. People have been known to share their lenses and allow friends pose for photos in them. This is more dangerous and more unhygienic than sharing chewing gum around a party, something no one would ever do. Finally, when the party ends the risk doesn’t, nobody should ever sleep wearing contact lenses, something which some Halloween partygoers will inadvertently do.”
There are many risks associated with the wearing of ill-fitting, poor quality contact lenses these include:
- Common Problems:Unsupervised contact lens use can lead to a range of problems, which include: red, sore, gritty eyes, dry eye, sensitivity to light, headaches, blurred vision and again in extreme cases reduction in best visual acuity.
- Incorrect base curve:If the lens is too flat it can feel very uncomfortable, cause variable vision or even fall out. If it is too steep it could cause stagnation of the tears and reduce oxygen to part of your eye, this can cause redness and swelling. If it is very steep it can become very difficult to remove and increase the risk of damaging the eye upon removal.
- Reduced Vision:Halloween favourites like the cat’s eyes or blackout lenses can reduce the peripheral vision affecting mobility, depth perception and balance and would make driving extremely dangerous. Often the packaging contains no warning of these dangers.
- Severe infections:Many people will not use appropriate solutions to moisten their lenses; sometimes they even use tap water or saliva to do this. This dramatically increases the risk of infections which can include bacterial conjunctivitis or a devastating condition called Acanthamoeba keratitis. Acanthamoeba is an organism commonly found in tap water and hot tubs. It causes an infection which can lead to permanent visual impairment or in the worst cases blindness.
It is a criminal offence to sell lenses unless the sale is conducted by a doctor, registered optometrist or registered dispensing optician. CORU is Ireland’s Health and Social Care Professionals regulator, and enforces this legislation. Earlier this year Balloon Man Ltd with premises in Sandyford Industrial Estate was convicted in the Dublin District Court of two separate offenses for misselling contact lenses and was fined for each offence.