Beware of Halloween contact lenses: Opticians warn novelty accessory could leave party-goers blind or cause agonising corneal tears

Spooky contact lenses are often sold illegally on market stalls and in joke shopsNovelty lenses, available for around £7 ($9), can trigger ulcers and corneal tearsWhen bought at unauthorised outlets, safety checks are skipped, experts warn

By Stephen Matthews For Mailonline

Published: 19:00 EDT, 18 October 2017 | Updated: 05:37 EDT, 19 October 2017

They are viewed by many as a harmless accessory to complement Halloween costumes. 

But spooky contact lenses, sold illegally on market stalls and in joke shops, could leave party-goers at risk of going blind, experts warn.

Novelty lenses, available for around £7 ($9), can trigger ulcers, agonising corneal tears and sight-threatening infections.

The joint warning, issued by Moorfields Eye Hospital and the General Optical Council, follows a string of horrifying cases in recent years during Halloween.

Tia Goode, from Merthyr, Wales, was left in unbearable pain after ripping off her cornea as she was trying to remove a pair of cat-eye contact lenses in 2015.

And Carrie-Anne Balloch, 21, from Leeds, was left in agony after wearing a pair of cat's eyes contacts at a party last year the year before. 

Tia Goode, from Merthyr, Wales, was left in unbearable pain after ripping off her cornea as she was trying to remove a pair of cat-eye contact lenses in 2015Tia Goode, from Merthyr, Wales, was left in unbearable pain after ripping off her cornea as she was trying to remove a pair of cat-eye contact lenses in 2015

Tia Goode, from Merthyr, Wales, was left in unbearable pain after ripping off her cornea as she was trying to remove a pair of cat-eye contact lenses in 2015

Contact lenses should only be handed out with a prescription in the UK - but fancy colourful ones aren't available for young revelers.

Instead, they go elsewhere for the cosmetic colour changes. But in doing so, they are risking irreversible damage to their vision.

Unauthorised outlets skip vital safety checks and don't issue advice on how to use them, meaning they aren't informed about the dangers of poor eye hygiene. 

The joint warning, issued by Moorfields Eye Hospital and the General Optical Council, follows a string of horrifying cases in recent years during Halloween.

Tia Goode, from Merthyr, Wales, was left in unbearable pain after ripping off her cornea as she was trying to remove a pair of cat-eye contact lenses in 2015.

And Carrie-Anne Balloch, 21, from Leeds, was left in agony after wearing a pair of cat's eyes contacts at a party last year the year before. 

WHAT TO DO IF YOU WANT TO WEAR THEM

Advice for anyone planning to wear cosmetic contact lenses this Halloween is:

Make sure a registered optician checks the lenses fit safelyAlways thoroughly wash and dry your hands before touching your eyeDon’t sleep in your contact lensesNever let other people try on your contact lensesNever let lenses come into contact with water, such as in the shower, bath, hot tub, sauna or swimming pool

Mr Badrul Hussain, consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said revellers should be aware of the dangers of spooky lenses. 

He said: 'Each year we treat patients, including children under 16, who have developed eye conditions after wearing cosmetic contact lenses.

'There can be an increase in these problems in the period around Halloween.

'Some of the cases we see, like patients sharing lenses with friends, wearing the same pair year after year well past the expiry date, and storing them in tap water, have devastating effects.'

Corneal dangers 

The cornea, the clear window at the front of the eye, is delicate and can easily be scratched by inexperienced contact lens wearers.

Carrie-Anne Balloch, 21, from Leeds, was left in agony after wearing a pair of cat's eyes contacts at a party last year the year beforeCarrie-Anne Balloch, 21, from Leeds, was left in agony after wearing a pair of cat's eyes contacts at a party last year the year before

Carrie-Anne Balloch, 21, from Leeds, was left in agony after wearing a pair of cat's eyes contacts at a party last year the year before

This can expose the eye to organisms that can cause nasty infections, which in extreme cases can result in the permanent loss of vision, Mr Hussain added.

He warned: 'Most of the patients haven’t been shown how to look after their cosmetic lenses or their eyes properly. 

DON'T SWIM WEARING CONTACT LENSES...

Don't swim while wearing contact lenses if you don't want to contract a flesh-eating eye bug that could potentially leave you blind.

Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), a parasite found in water across the world, can easily be picked up by lenses, researchers warn.

Left to burrow, the amoeba can penetrate through the eyeball, causing total vision loss within just a matter of weeks.

An analysis of all incidents recorded in the last 18 years showed that 86 per cent of patients had gone swimming with their lenses in.

Australian researchers identified 34 cases over the time frame, the study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology states.

As well as the risk of swimming, which is a known risk factor, the scientists also highlighted rinsing lenses with tap water as a cause.

The acanthamoeba parasite, which feeds on bacteria, can be present in all forms of water - such as swimming pools, hot tubs, and even showers. 

'Not knowing the basics of using contact lenses safely can put you at higher risk of developing painful eye injuries, infections and in the worst cases, risk of permanent sight loss.'

Vicky McDermott, chief executive of the General Optical Council, said: 'When worn safely, the risks associated with cosmetic contact lenses are low. 

'However, when lenses are sold illegally, wearers are denied important safety checks and advice, putting them at risk of serious damage to their eyes. 

'Party-goers can better protect their sight by buying their lenses from a qualified professional.' 

What the laws state 

It is not currently against the law for retailers to sell cosmetic lenses online in the UK. 

It is, however, illegal for non-prescription lenses to be sold or supplied in Britain without the supervision of a registered optometrist, suitably qualified dispensing optician or medical practitioner.

However, novelty lenses are easily available at market stalls and small shops all over the UK.  

Echoed sentiments 

The British Contact Lens Association echoed the concerns ahead of Halloween revelers flocking to fancy dress shops for the lenses. 

President Keith Tempany said: 'Wearing fancy lenses might make you look cool for one night on Halloween, but losing your sight could be a lifelong horror story.

'Cosmetic coloured lenses are a medical device and should be prescribed by an eye care professional. 

'These lenses should only be purchased from – and fitted by – a registered practitioner.

'By sharing coloured contact lenses young people are playing Russian roulette with their eye health and putting their sight at risk.' 

Let's block ads! (Why?)