Colored contacts can damage eyes.

On Halloween, people may risk their safety at late night parties or outside while trick-or-treating. Along with these dangers, damage to their eyes is a health concern people may not realize.

With the availability of colored contact lenses, people can add to their costume accessories. Completing a costume or wanting to change up the style are just a few reasons why people may wear colored contacts on Halloween.

Regardless of the appeal of decorative lenses, people who use this accessory may be at risk of complications involving their eyes.

Constance Crossnoe, optometry doctor and faculty associate who is therapeutic optometrist at Texas Tech Eye Consultants, said wearing contact lenses that are not fitted properly, such as the decorative lenses for Halloween costumes, can cause a corneal ulcer, which is a very painful eye infection that could cause severe loss of vision.

“You’re putting something directly on the eye that is going to have some bacteria on it,” she said. “Not having them fit properly makes it even worse.”

Red eyes, irritation, pain and change in vision are just some of the negative effects Crossnoe said occurs when wearing contact lenses that are not clean or not fitted appropriately. With the presence of these symptoms, she said the first step is to take the lenses out of the eyes and go see a doctor.

Whether people buy the approved products or obtain decorative lenses without the use of a prescription, any lack of eye care and contact maintenance could lead to injuries, Crossnoe said.

“It’s illegal to sell contacts without a prescription but it still happens at flea markets and places like that,” Crossnoe said. “Part of the process of getting the prescription is we teach you how to keep them clean.”

Despite the differences between regular and decorative lenses, Crossnoe said one similarity between them is the daily maintenance.

“It’s an FDA approved product. That’s why you have to have a prescription to buy them,” she said. “Colored contacts, especially the Halloween ones, have so much paint and colors in them that they’re significantly less healthy than just regular clear contacts.”

With the need for decorative lenses to improve a Halloween costume, people may still wear these accessories despite the risk for eye injuries.

For people who are still wanting to wear these types of contacts, preparation is one requirement necessary to ensure healthy eyes.

Bryan Gibson, optometrist at Gibson, Gibson and Moore Lubbock Eye Care, said for those considering decorative lenses and wanting to avoid the negative effects, they should treat the accessory like a typically contact.

“Make sure they’re fitted by a professional,” Gibson said. “Make sure they are disinfected and not expired.”

Maintaining the lenses is another step Gibson said people need to complete daily.

“Wash your hands before touching the contacts,” Gibson said. “You don’t want to sleep in them.”

Even though Halloween contacts should be treated like normal lenses, Gibson said the two are not of the same quality.

“I would not want to wear them long term,” Gibson said. “The take home point is that these decorative contacts are not like regular contacts.”

Colored lenses may be worn for a short amount of time during different Halloween events.

However, for some people, decorative lenses are not exclusive to Halloween.

Mallory Prucha, assistant professor of costume design at the Tech School of Theatre and Dance, said on occasions, theatre students may wear colored lenses for performances when certain character traits need to be represented and the audience is seated closer to the actors. In these rare situations, she said students should always consult a professional first.

“What I would have a student do is go to an optometrist,” Purcha said. “Have their eyes checked to make sure they’re suitable for contact lenses.”

Along with professional guidance, Prucha said some doctors and licensed vendors provide catalogs that offer safer, prescribed decorative lenses. 

Being educated on the type of lenses and the requirements necessary to prevent eye injuries is one precaution she said can prepare anyone, actors or not, who are considering the use of decorative contacts.

“You don’t know what exactly you’re putting into your eye,” Prucha said. “If they haven’t worn contact lenses before, they need to ask about length of wear. They need to ask about cleaning practices.”

Learning the proper techniques to maintain and obtain lenses that are fitted properly is one method Prucha said can benefit people who want to wear these contacts.

“Over the Halloween season, be careful about anything you are putting on your face or near your eyes,” Prucha said. “You don’t know where those products are coming from.”

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