If one of the accessories this year to your Halloween costume are spooky contact lenses, optometrist in Merced say the potential eye damage is not worth the Instagram photos.
Non prescription contact lenses, popularly used during the month of October for zombie, vampire and devil costumes, can cause infections and in worst case scenarios blindness, said Cayla Robillard, an optometrist at Golden Valley Health Centers.
"It's terrible to see young people just trying to dress up for a night and putting in these crazy contacts to look cool or for Instagram pictures," she told the Sun-Star in a phone interview. "There's a lot of misconception of contact lenses. People think just because there's no prescription in the lenses it won't cause harm to the eye."
People need to remember that contacts are a medical devise that lay directly on the eye, Robillard said, and anything that touches the eye can cause many different problems. Wearing non-prescription contacts, she said, can cause an infection to the cornea, the center part of the eye, and severe cornea infection can result in permanent vision loss.
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Redness, pain in the eye, blurred visison or discharge from the eye are all signs of infection, Robillard said, but "a lot of the time" there are no warning signs.
A report published earlier this year by the U. S FDA Forensic Chemistry Center found a majority of unapproved contact lenses tested positive for bacteria that is commonly found in hospital toilet water or spoiled food. The study examined more than 300 contact lenses and 29 different brands.
During Halloween Robillard says she see's and influx of patients coming in with eye infections due to non-prescription contact use and "it's getting worse" because they're easily accessed and aren't FDA approved.
Although illegal, non-prescription contact lenses are available at costume shops, beauty stores, flea markets and online websites, according to a statement from the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons and the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Non-prescription contacts are marketed as "one-size-fits-all" or "no prescription necessary" but are a serious health hazard, the statement said.
When contact lenses don't fit the eye they can cause scratches to the cornea, officials at both academies said, and can be painful and cause permanent irreversible damage, especially if scratches become infected.
Making sure contacts are the right size for the eye is "really important," Robillard said, because anything that's placed on the eye carries the risk of infection.
"One contact lens for one person won't work for the next person," Robillard said. "You need to get it from someone who can check the eyes."
However, for those who want to change the appearance of their eyes for the full costume effect, there's a way to go about it safely.
People can order Halloween and colored contacts, either with prescription or without, through an eye doctor , Robillard said. It's just a matter of planning in advance.
Monica Velez: 209-385-2486, @monicavelez21