At some point in the past decade Halloween has popularised itself across Australia. While I was growing up Halloween was always an American ‘thing’. It was something we saw in American movies and a part of American culture. Halloween was an eve celebration of the feast of All Hallow’s Day: a three day observance of Allhallowtide dedicated to remembering the dead including saints (hallows), martyrs and all the faithful departed.
With the rise of popularity of Halloween in Australia, interest in novelty or decorated contact lenses as part of a Halloween costume has also increased. While these may add that ‘wow’ factor to your costume, non-prescription accessory lenses can be dangerous and lead to significant, long-term eye damage. This is particularly true when they have not been fitted by an optometrist.
Best practice is to ensure not only optimal vision but also comfort and correct fitting in order to maintain ocular health. The cornea (the tissue layer in front of the iris) where the contact lens sits on is a delicate tissue. A compromised contact lens could potentially introduce unwelcomed bacteria to the corneal surface and cause mild infections to sight threatening conditions causing scarring and blindness. Furthermore, an optometrist is able to correctly advise the best method to remove, insert and clean contact lenses and the appropriate products to use to minimise the potential for scratched corneas and allergic reactions to solutions.
A recent study has found that cosmetic contact lenses available online circumvent regulation from safety agencies such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and can contain harmful chemicals such as chlorine, which can seep from the colourants in the lens to cause toxicity problems for the eyes. (i)
The image above shows what happens when a person gets an infection known as Acanthamoeba Keratitis. (ii) This parasite will literally eat the cornea away in 24 hours.
So even though you may only wear these contact lenses as a one off, they still require the same high level of care to be worn safely. The following is recommended for all contact lens wearers:
- Have contact lenses properly fitted at an optometrist who will also instruct you on correct insertion, removal and cleaning of lenses.
- Always wash hands before touching contacts and never store or clean contacts with tap water.
- Don’t sleep in contact lenses unless advised it is safe to do so by your optometrist.
- If your eyes become red, sensitive to light, painful, gunky or your vision becomes blurred remove lenses and see an optometrist ASAP. (iii)
(iii) Recommendations from Optometry Australia
Main image is from www.allaboutvision.com