In the lead up to Halloween, novelty non-prescription contact lenses, easily obtained online, are frightening Australian optometrists for all the wrong reasons.
The truly scary thing about these cosmetic contact lenses – made in zombie, werewolf and vampire varieties – can be found under the microscope. In a recent US case report¹ published in the Journal of Forensic Science by the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Forensic Chemistry Center, costume contact lenses were shown to have high rates of microbial contamination which can lead to ocular infections, conjunctivitis and even permanent visual impairment and blindness.
The study found 60 per cent of suspected counterfeit lenses and 27 per cent of the authentic non-corrective contact lenses, obtained directly from manufacturers without a prescription, were contaminated. Only three per cent of authentic, prescribed contact lenses were contaminated.
Another study found that cosmetic contact lenses available online often circumvent regulation from safety agencies such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and can contain harmful chemicals such as chlorine, which can seep from the colourants in the lens to cause toxicity problems for the eyes².
Optometry Australia’s resident optometrist, Luke Arundel, said, “Contact lenses aren’t costumes. They are medical devices worn on living tissue. It is essential they be purchased from an optometrist who will measure each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how the eye responds to contact lens wear using a microscope”.
“These novelty items are often playfully packaged and targeted to teens who may have no experience using contact lenses. Not only do optometrists ensure contact lenses fit the wearer properly, they also instruct on appropriate insertion and removal techniques and correct contact lens care to minimise the risk of irreversible eye damage.”
There are prescription cosmetic or decorative contact lenses available through optometrists in Australia that are safe. Find an optometrist in your local area at goodvisionforlife.com.au
1. Land AD, Penno KL, Brzezinski JL. Identification of Microorganisms Isolated From Counterfeit and Unapproved Decorative Contact Lenses. J Forensic Sci. 2017 May 24.
2. Scanning Electron Microscopy Findings with Energy-Dispersive X-ray Investigations of Cosmetically Tinted Contact Lenses, Eye & Contact Lens, Sept. 2015.