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Eye of Newt

Eye of Newt

Why Halloween Lenses are nothing but toil and trouble!

by Philomena Obasi-Adams

It could be as simple as a sheet with eye holes or well fashioned toilet paper, the Halloween costumes of my youth were always nice and easy. And dressing up was such a treat when I was little – it’s fair to say I’ve had some successful short-lived stints as a witch, Disney princess, cat, tiger, even a mechanic. Alongside the years of costume changes came the excitement of visiting our friends and neighbours for sweet treats – that’s what it was all about. 

Fast forward 20 years and gone are the days of trick or treating. Now the invitations are for over-the-top house parties and Halloween-themed club nights (there’s only so many times you can listen to Thriller in one night!).  

No doubt there are still cats and witches lurking about but not the cute version I remember. Each year the make-up trends get more outlandish and quite frankly the idea of dressing up gives me dread, especially with the new risks that seem to come along with it.  

Working for the Association of Optometrists certainly raises your awareness of some of the most common, and lesser known, eye health horrors. This includes the recurring story that rears its ugly head each Autumn – some poor, unsuspecting person has worn illegal zero-powered contact lenses (often the finishing touch to any convincing costume) and contracted an infection, or worse, as a result. 

Yes, they’re cheap to buy and easy to access online and off, but by law cosmetic contact lenses can only be supplied under the supervision of a registered optometrist, dispensing optician or a medical practitioner, and when ignored, it can have some nasty consequences. 

The truth is, you just don’t know what they’re really made from. Illegal contact lenses could contain poor quality or outdated materials and may have even failed a safety check. They also don’t usually come with any advice on how to wear or store them – which is often the reason people experience problems. 

To help make sure your contact lenses don’t ruin the party this Halloween, we’ve issued eight tips on how to buy and wear them safely – including all the gruesome reasons why you should avoid the illegal kind. Remember, unlike that ghoulish monster costume, you only have one set of eyes!      
  • Many Halloween contact lenses are unregulated and illegal
  • Poor quality contact lenses can cause serious eye health complications with wearers at risk of corneal ulcers or abrasions, eye infections and even blindness 
  • One eye expert in 10 has seen a patient with eye problems after wearing novelty contact lenses 

With Halloween approaching, the Association of Optometrists (AOP) offers advice for buying and wearing contact lenses safely – as thousands choose spooky eye wear as a finishing touch to their costume.  

  1. Get your lenses fitted by a professional, not the Internet
    If they are not fitted and cared for properly, contact lenses carry a risk of eye infections, causing blindness in some rare cases. It’s not worth putting your eyes at risk, so get the best advice and make sure your contact lenses are fitted by an eye care professional. 
  2. Like swapping gruesome germs?
    We didn’t think so. Never share or swap contact lenses with anyone else – the chances of getting a nasty infection, such as bacterial conjunctivitis, is much more likely. This can make eyes uncomfortable, pink or red, and create a yellow or green sticky discharge, and has the potential to lead to corneal ulcers, corneal scarring and blindness.
  3. Can you trust the supplier?   
    Novelty lenses are often available in joke and fancy-dress shops and can be purchased online but these suppliers are often unregulated. It is illegal to sell contact lenses without the supervision of a registered professional like an optometrist or contact lens optician because of the risk to your eyes. 
  4. Don’t keep lenses in all night, or you’ll wake up with a fright 
    Unless specifically designed for extended use, contact lenses should not be worn overnight. Not only can extended use increase the risk of eye infections, it can starve your eye of oxygen and cause the lens to bind itself to the front of your eye. 
  5. Keep lenses clean but never with water 
    When wearing any type of contact lenses, make sure they are clean by using the recommended contact lens solution. Never use tap water to clean lenses because this can lead to serious, and potentially blinding, eye conditions. And always wash and dry your hands before inserting your lenses. 
  6. Don’t re-use your lenses, they’re better as a one-night stand
    You should never re-use contact lenses unless they are speci´Čücally designed for repeat wear, as it increases the likelihood of infections and keratitis which is a very painful inflammation of the cornea. Re-useable lenses must be kept in fresh contact lens solution, in a clean contact lens case too.
  7. Put your lenses in before putting your face on 
    If your costume involves a full face of make-up remember to apply it after putting your contact lenses in. 
  8. If in doubt, take them out
    If you suffer from any redness, irritation, swelling, pain or an aversion to light, remove your lenses immediately. Consult an optometrist or contact lens optician for advice as soon as possible.

Visit the AOP website for advice on contact lens wear and care  

(Philomena Obasi-Adams is the Marketing and PR Officer at the Association of Optometrists)

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