Wearing cheap costume contact lenses may have consequences, UW prof warns

If you are wearing costume contact lenses as part of your Halloween costume this year, a University of Waterloo optometry professor says to be cautious as there could be scary consequences.

"Many of these contact lenses are made in non-approved establishments and often the quality of the lenses, unless you get them from an official sources like your optometrist, are manufactured without any quality control," Lyndon Jones, director of the Centre of Contact Lens Research at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at UW, told CBC News.

Jones said damage or infections often happen with cheap costume lenses you buy at costume stores. He recommended purchasing high quality costume lenses from an optometrist to reduce the risk.

"These cosmetic contact lenses are perfectly safe, if you buy them from a reputable seller – you are taught how to put them in and out and taught how to store them," he said.

Damage and infections

Jones said there are a number of factor that can cause damage or an infection to your eye when wearing costume contact lenses. 

Often, they see patients that have a scratched or scraped eyes as a result of the poor quality of the costume lens and individuals not knowing how to put them in or take them out of the eye properly.

Eye infections, however, occur when contact lenses aren't stored properly and when people share contact lenses, which can cause major corneal infections, Jones said.

"[Costume lenses] are just like regular contact lenses, where they need to be kept moist," Jones said. "You certainly can not ever store them in tap water. They have to be stored in proper contact lens solution."

Signs something's wrong

There are two common symptoms to look out for when something is wrong. 

Jones said an individual should seek medical attention right away if they experience any pain or redness in their eyes after wearing costume contact lenses.

"That is an almost certain sign of an infection," he said. 

He added people should not leave a lens in, thinking that it'll get better the next morning, as an infection can progress quickly.

"Within 24 hours these infections can be absolutely devastating," he said.

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