Novelty Contact Lenses Can Be Dangerous

Reporter: Shannon Samson

Web Producer: Kerry Corum

Novelty lenses may give you a scary look for Halloween, but the side effects could be a real nightmare.

The Food and Drug Administration wants you to know what can go wrong.

The FDA says people are buying decorative contact lenses over the internet, or at flea markets, and convenience stores. And that's putting their health in jeopardy. So the agency is urging consumers not to buy these lenses, unless they've seen an eye care professional.

Your eyes can be accessorized. Search on the internet and you will find contact lenses that support your favorite team, or make you look spooky. The style called "Dead Eye" is so dramatic, the wearer can't see out of them.

Actually, experts say any of these lenses can have that effect, if they shift during use.

Optometrist Larry Woods says, "You have your pupil covered up by the opaque part of the lens, and you've not been instructed as to what to do when that happens. You're in a risky situation at that point."

It's Christy Knight's job to sit down with patients, and teach them how to wear and care, for their contact lenses. Still, plenty of patients end up getting infections. Christy is a Certified Ophthalmic Assistant, and she says, "All the handling and everything else that you touch, and also so many people want to take them out and rinse them with water, or put them in their mouth and that is the worst thing you can do."

Imagine what people are doing who don't get the lecture. They wear lenses that don't fit. They're sleeping and swimming in them, sharing them with friends. And, if they're cleaning them at all, they may not be doing it properly.

Dr. Woods says, "There's a tendency for people to damage lenses as well, if they're not taught to take it out properly. And so the next time they put that lens in, it may have a tear in it that they may not realize, before that can lead to corneal injury."

Corneal injury can lead to infection. These conditions not only impair vision, they can lead to blindness or eye loss. Dr. Woods says it's important to remember that contact lenses are medical devices, and if you don't need to be wearing them to see, you're putting yourself at risk unnecessarily.

One clinical journal reports that HIV transmission is a potential risk among people who share contact lenses, although no cases have been documented.

And if anyone has any complaints about these contact lenses, they can report them to the FDA.

Are these lenses legal? Non-corrective lenses don't fall under the FDA's jurisdiction, but there's a bill in the house that may change that.

Report complaints to the FDA by phone at 1-800-FDA-1088, or by fax at 1-800-FDA-0178, or by mail to:


Food and Drug Administration

5600 Fishers Lane

Rockville, MD, 20850

And you can read more about the FDA's warning by clicking here.