With Halloween less than a week away, many are finalizing the last details to make their costumes spectacular. At this time of year, yellow cat eye lenses, colored contacts, blacked-out lenses, or even all white lenses are especially popular for those dressing up to scare or impress. But, are these finishing touches safe? San Diego based NVISION Surgeon, Dr. Mihir Parikh, joins us for a Q + A to cover all things contact lenses to help you protect your eyes while making a statement this Halloween.
NVISION: Are novelty contacts safe?
Dr. Mihir Parikh: Novelty and theatrical contact lenses, often used during Halloween, are safe, but only when they are properly prescribed and cared for. In fact, it is illegal to sell any form of contact lenses without a prescription in the United States since all contacts for sale must be FDA approved!
Make sure to obtain a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and expiration date from an eye doctor. If you notice any redness, swelling, pain, or discomfort in your eyes from wearing the contact lenses, remove them immediately and seek medical attention.
Just like colored lenses, novelty contacts can be used whether or not the person normally wears glasses or contacts because they are typically available both with and without lens power to correct vision.
N: What should people look out for if they're purchasing some?
MP: I have a few tips for when you're looking to purchase these novelty lenses:
- Always buy contact lenses from an authorized source
- Never buy from any store that does not ask you for a valid prescription (this includes flea markets, pop-up shops, and bazaars)
- Contact lenses are not a “one size fits all,” make sure to get your eye properly fitted and examined by an eye doctor
- Poor-fitted contacts can cause serious vision problems such as scratches to the cornea, infections, decreased vision, or even vision loss
N: What if the person has never worn contacts before?
MP: Visit an eye doctor to get an exam and proper fitting for prescribed contacts. It may be uncomfortable at first to put them in, but the discomfort should go away soon if they fit your eyes correctly. Be sure to follow all directions and practice putting them on and taking them off. It definitely will take some time to get used to wearing them.
N: What are some possible eye safety problems that could come as a result of wearing novelty contacts?
MP: There are steps you can take to prevent having serious vision problems from wearing contacts.
Washing your hands thoroughly before applying contacts is a must! We use our hands and fingers for everything, so it carries a lot of bacteria and germs. Just as you should not touch our eyes with dirty hands, you definitely should not be touching the contacts before washing your hands.
To avoid getting makeup on your contact lenses, always put your contacts in before you apply any makeup and take them out before you remove your makeup. This lessens the chance of a bacterial infection from any of the products you wear.
Dry eyes can be a result of your “tear film”, a kind of protective cover over the layer of moisture on your eyeball, being disrupted by the lens sitting on tip of it. In most cases, using eye drops or artificial tears, or even just blinking more frequently can offer immediate relief.
N: How long can/should they wear them?
MP: Avoid wearing contacts for too long, just as you would for regular contacts. As a general rule, it is best not to keep them in for more than 8 hours a day. If they start getting uncomfortable, take them out earlier.
Also, never sleep or swim in your contacts! Doing so can result in dry eyes, itchy eyes, red eyes, or even an eye infection.
N: Should the contacts be discarded after use?
MP: Unless otherwise stated, most novelty lenses have expiration dates and can be used multiple times before having to throw them away if taken care of correctly. If they are damaged or get dirty, throw them away because they are no longer usable and can cause more harm to your eye.
Make sure to clean and store them with the appropriate multi-purpose contact lens solution and never reuse the same solution to store or clean the lenses. The solutions should be the only way to clean the lenses, do not use water, saliva, saline or eye drops as they could damage the contacts or even tear them.