The dangers of novelty Halloween contact lenses

Optometrists warn that non-prescription contact lenses may cause permanent eye damage.

Don't get scarred by scary eyes

Optometrists have issued a warning to consumers about the dangers of novelty contact lenses, increasingly popular around Halloween.

Available in black, white, red and any other colour you can think of, as well as effects like cat eyes and bleeding, the lenses promise to add extra oomph to your Halloween get-up. These contact lenses are sold online and over-the-counter without prescription, and some claim to be "approved by the TGA".

But Sophie Koh, of Optometry Australia, warns that buying novelty lenses online or over-the-counter can lead to eye infections, corneal damage and even permanent blindness. There are numerous documented cases of serious harm to the eyes caused by novelty contact lenses bought without a prescription.

"The surface of the eye is extremely delicate and wearing non-prescribed novelty contact lenses, particularly those from a dubious source, could cause a range of eye damage," she says.

A study in Japan found cosmetic contact lenses of poor quality, with some having a rough surface in contact with the eye, poor oxygen permeability, increased potential for bacterial contamination, and chlorine which leached out of the lens. 

While some lenses may appear safe as they've been listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), there are still concerns about how they're used, including proper hygiene practices for handling and storage.

"Contact lenses are not 'one size fits all'," says Koh. "If people want to enhance their Halloween look with fancy dress lenses, it's important to make sure the lenses are prescribed by 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.

 "Never mess with your eyes. Always seek professional guidance from an optometrist before using novelty contact lenses."