Experts warn of the dangers of wearing novelty contact lenses this Halloween
Read more about Acanthamoeba keratitis.
Eye experts are warning about the dangers of wearing novelty contact lenses as part of your Halloween costume this year.
Such novelty lenses are often illegally sold in costume shops and market stalls and can cause infections and damage to the cornea. The majority of these vendors do not provide advice on how to safely wear and care for the contact lenses.
Legally, cosmetic contact lenses can only be supplied by or under the supervision of a registered optometrist, suitably-qualified dispensing optician or medical practitioner who will check the lenses will not cause damage and provide aftercare advice to reduce the risk of infection.
Head of Research at Fight for Sight, Dr Rubina Ahmed said: “The danger is that those who are not accustomed to wearing contact lenses may not use them correctly and this can increase the risk of infection. This type of infection can have serious consequences and even result in blindness. You should only ever buy contact lenses from a registered and trusted optician - it is not worth putting your eyes at risk.”
One example of an infection caused by poor lens-hygiene practices is Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK). AK is a rare but serious eye infection that affects the clear front surface of the eye. In the early stage of infection, the Acanthamoeba eats into the cornea, causing severe pain, loss of vision and extreme photophobia. The most severely affected patients have less than 25% of vision, face prolonged treatment or become blind following the disease. Overall, 25% of people affected require corneal transplants to treat the disease or restore vision.
Using tap water to clean or store contact lenses, contaminating lenses with tap, pool or hot tub water and having poor contact lens hygiene increases the risk of infection.
Other risks associated with the use of these novelty lenses include conjunctivitis (an infection of the eye), corneal swelling, allergic reactions, corneal abrasion from poor lens fit and a reduction in vision.