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Halloween Contact Lenses Can Be Horror Story

FDA experts say users risk corneal scratches, even blindness from these products

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Laura Butler knew something was wrong when she felt a pain in her eye while driving that was so bad she had to pull over.

Butler, who lives in West Virginia and has brown eyes, said she had just started trying out decorative blue contact lenses that she'd bought for $30 from a souvenir shop in 2010. The "excruciating" pain in her left eye occurred a day into wearing the new lenses, which took 20 minutes to remove since they had become stuck to her eyes like suction cups.

Butler said she drove home in "indescribable" pain and was later diagnosed with a corneal abrasion.

"The doctor said it was as if someone took sandpaper and sanded my cornea," she said in a news release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The agency is releasing its annual warning about novelty contact lenses, which are very popular at Halloween.

Butler said her eye doctor told her that "he wasn't going to sugar-coat it, that I could lose my eyesight or could lose my eye."

Those things didn't happen, but Butler couldn't drive for eight weeks, had a drooping eyelid for five months, and still has lowered vision in her eye. Her medical bill for the incident totaled about $2,000.

Butler's story isn't uncommon, and the FDA is warning consumers that if they plan to buy decorative contact lenses for Halloween, there are potential risks of which they need to be aware.

Decorative contact lenses are not cosmetics or over-the-counter products, the agency said. They are regulated medical devices and outlets that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them without a prescription are breaking the law.

As with regular contact lenses, one size does not fit all eyes, the FDA said. That's why eye doctors must measure each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how your eye responds to contact lens wear.

According to the FDA, a poor fit can cause serious damage, including:

  • Scratches on the cornea (the clear dome of tissue over the iris, which gives you your eye color)
  • Corneal infection
  • Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Decreased vision or blindness

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