By Emily Tait
Halloween is one of the only times of the year when people have a great excuse to dress up and wear whatever they want, transforming themselves into creatures of the night, but the activity does come with dangers.
One of these is the risk associated with illegal coloured contact lenses, which are often sold without a prescription and can cause serious eye damage.
Once again this year, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, along with its partners, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology, Strabismus and the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists, has urged people to take extra care when it comes to wearing the products.
With just one month to go until All Hallow"s Eve, many people will already be thinking about transforming into werewolves, vampires, mummies and other monsters, but doing so by wearing illegally-distributed and retailed contacts should be avoided at all costs, the organisations warn.
Dr Thomas Steinemann, professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said that a major problem is that many people are simply not aware of the dangers that wearing illegal contacts can present.
He explained that many people believe that decorative lenses do not require the same level of care or consideration because they can be purchased over-the-counter or on the internet, but it is when they are not from reputable suppliers that the problem arises.
"This is far from the truth. In fact, permanent eye damage can occur from using over-the-counter lenses. Any type of contact lens is a medical device that requires a prescription and proper fitting by an eyecare professional," the expert added.
Of course, the danger of illegal contact lenses is eliminated if people buy them from a reputable supplier, and there are plenty available from respectable in-store and online contact lens suppliers, Dr Steinemann noted.
The problem is getting the message out which is why the organisation has relaunched the Eye Smart campaign once again.
"Consumers need to know that permanent eye damage can occur from using over-the-counter lenses," Dr Steinemann explained.
Personally, I have seen far too many serious cases in both children and adults from using decorative lenses. My most recent case was a patient who was only 12 years old."
To protect vision, an eyecare professional must measure each eye in order to properly fit contacts for the patient and also instruct them on appropriate contact lens care something which is often neglected, the expert stated.
As long as people are aware of the proper way to look after contact lenses and buy them from a known supplier with a good reputation, their Halloween costume can be complete and the evening can go without a hitch, whether they are a vampire, werewolf or other creature of the night.
by Emily Tait