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Halloween Contact Lenses Can Be Horror Story

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


Dr. Bernard Lepri, an FDA optometrist, said in an agency news release that the danger isn't with the contacts themselves, however.

"It's the way people use them improperly -- without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye-care professional or without appropriate follow-up care," he said.

You should never buy decorative contact lenses from street vendors, salons, beauty-supply stores, boutiques, flea markets, novelty stores, Halloween stores, convenience stores, beach shops or on the Internet (unless the site requires a prescription), according to the FDA.

There are ways to safely buy and use decorative contact lenses, however. First, get an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist), even if you think your vision is perfect. Get a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements and an expiration date. Lenses should be purchased only from a seller who requires you to provide a prescription, whether you go in person or shop online.

All of this isn't necessarily expensive: Butler found out that her optometrist could have ordered her two sets of decorative lenses for $50 and charged her $60 for the eye exam.

Do not expect your eye doctor to prescribe "anime," or circle, lenses, however. These bigger-than-normal lenses that give the wearer a wide-eyed, doll-like look have not been approved by the FDA.

As with any contact lenses, consumers should follow directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the lenses, and visit their eye doctor for follow-up eye exams. If you develop signs of possible eye infection -- redness, eye pain that doesn't go away after a short time and a decrease in vision, see your doctor immediately, the FDA said.

Butler said she learned the hazards of decorative, fashion lenses the hard way. Her advice this Halloween for anyone considering these products: "Take the time to go to the doctor, pay the extra money and save yourself the agony."

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