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Halloween party-goers urged to protect themselves from contact lens horrors

News posted: 20/10/2017

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Experts from Moorfields Eye Hospital are urging party-goers planning to wear spooky contact lenses this Halloween to buy and wear them safely.  Cosmetic contact lenses can cause an increase in A&E visits around the Halloween season, with under-16s among those affected.

Cosmetic contact lenses are often sold illegally on market stalls, joke shops and websites. These unauthorised outlets rarely provide adequate advice about how to wear and care for contact lenses safely. By law, cosmetic contact lenses should only be supplied under the supervision of a registered optician or doctor who will check the lenses will not cause damage and provide aftercare advice to reduce the risk of infection.

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.”

Mr Badrul Hussain, consultant  ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, 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. Most of the patients haven’t been shown how to look after their cosmetic lenses or their eyes properly. 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. The cornea, the clear window at the front of the eye, is delicate and can be scratched easily by inexperienced contact lens wearers. This can expose the eye to organisms that can cause nasty infections, which in extreme cases can result in permanently impaired, or loss of, vision.”

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

  • Make sure a registered optician checks the lenses fit safely
  • Always thoroughly wash and dry your hands before touching your eye
  • Don’t sleep in your contact lenses
  • Never let other people try on your contact lenses
  • Never let lenses come into contact with water, such as in the shower, bath, hot tub, sauna or swimming pool

For further information about how to wear contact lenses safely, visit www.loveyourlenses.com/how-to-love-your-lenses/.