As people shop for their perfect Halloween costume and are tempted to complete their look with costume contact lenses bought without a prescription, ophthalmologists – medical doctors specializing in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions – are warning consumers that doing so can lead to permanent vision loss.
Although the practice has been illegal since 2005, today non-prescription cosmetic contact lenses are still sold in shops and via online retailers to customers who are unaware that wearing these devices can result in serious eye injuries. The American Academy of Ophthalmology warns that the lenses, which may not be manufactured to meet federal health and safety standards, can cause injuries such as cuts and open sores in the protective layer of the iris and pupil (corneal abrasions and ulcers) and potentially blinding painful bacterial infections (keratitis). These injuries can require serious eye surgeries such as corneal transplants, and in some cases lead to permanent vision loss. One study found that wearing cosmetic contact lenses increased the risk of keratitis by more than 16 times.