Canadians planning their Halloween costumes should be wary of decorative contact lenses, according to health officials.
Health Canada warned in a recent release that while such decorative lenses are popular additions to Halloween attire, they can pose risks such as cuts or scratches on corneas, allergic reactions, impaired vision, infections and even blindness.
Decorative contact lenses, also referred to by other names such as “fashion,” “costume” or “cosmetic” lenses, don’t correct vision but change how eyes look.
The public health agency warned that such lenses can be sold at unlicensed novelty stores, flea markets or online, which means they could contain harmful ingredients such as toxic dyes.
Health Canada advises those who want decorative lenses to stick to companies licensed by the public health agency. These companies have products that are tested for safety and quality.
The following companies are licensed by sellers of decorative contact lenses in Canada: Alcon Laboratories Inc., Bausch & Lomb Inc., Ciba Vision Corporation, Coopervision Inc., Geo Medical Co., Ltd., Les Lesieur Enterprises Inc., Neo Vision Co. Ltd., Unicon Optical Co., Ltd.
The health agency also has a myriad of other tips for those using the lenses this Halloween, including properly cleaning and disinfecting them, never sleeping with them on, never sharing them with others, and talking to licensed eye-care professionals if there is any discomfort. Some forms of discomfort may include itchy, watery or red eyes and blurriness.
Several eye-care organizations in Canada have issued similar warnings urging consumers to stay away from such contact lenses.
The Canadian Ophthalmological Society (COS) said in a news release that these lenses can cause corneal ulcers, which can “quickly lead to permanent loss of vision if left untreated.”
“No one should purchase, and then wear, cosmetic lenses directly from a retail outlet without a prescription and professional oversight. The risks are far too high,” Dr. Allan Slomovic, who works with the COS, said in the release.
The Canadian Association of Optometrists added that those dressing up for Halloween should also stay away from applying makeup products near the lid or lash line that are not specifically designed for the area.
It noted that some people use blush or red lip liner around the eye, which could transfer bacteria from other parts of the face to inside the eye and cause an infection.
“Vision is precious. If novelty contact lenses are the finishing touch for your Halloween costume, see your doctor of optometry first,” a statement from the organization read.