Wouldn’t it be cool to have vampire eyes for Halloween? Or deep violet eyes to match your purple sweater? How about your favorite sports team’s logo on your eyes just for fun?
You can have all of these looks with decorative contact lenses (sometimes called “fashion,” “costume,” or “colored” contact lenses). These lenses don’t correct vision—they just change how your eyes look. But before buying decorative lenses, here’s what you should know.
Crystal clear facts
Decorative contact lenses are not cosmetics or over-the-counter merchandise. They are medical devices regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Places that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them over-the-counter, without a prescription, are breaking the law.
They are not “one size fits all.” An eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist) must measure each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how your eye responds to contact lens wear. A poor fit can cause serious eye damage, including corneal infection, conjunctivitis (pink eye), or blindness.
Contact the experts
Places that sell decorative lenses without a prescription may give you few or no instructions on how to clean and care for your lenses. Failure to use the proper solution to keep contact lenses clean and moist can lead to infections, says Bernard P. Lepri, O.D., M.S., M.Ed., an FDA optometrist in the agency’s Contact Lens and Retinal Devices Branch. “Bacterial infections can be extremely rapid, result in corneal ulcers, and cause blindness—sometimes within as little as 24 hours if not diagnosed and treated promptly.”
“The problem isn’t with the decorative contacts themselves,” adds Lepri. “It’s the way people use them improperly—without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care.”
Better safe than sorry
It is always recommended to get an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor or get a valid prescription, even if you feel your vision is perfect. Also, consider buying lenses from sellers that require you to provide a prescription, whether you purchase them in person or online. And most importantly, follow all directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses, and visit your eye doctor for follow-up eye exams. Make sure to see your eye doctor right away if you have signs of possible eye infection.