A top eye surgeon has issued a stark warning to Halloween revellers on the health risks of using cosmetic contacts lenses to complete their fancy dress costumes.
Dr David Teenan, UK and Ireland medical director for Optical Express, has said that cosmetic contact lens wearers are at risk of heavy metal poisoning and a host of eye conditions, including swelling, infection and even vision loss.
Dr Teenan said: “Many people believe that because cosmetic and coloured lenses are readily available from shops, stalls and websites in the lead-up to Halloween that they are safe, but they absolutely are not. They can be extremely dangerous.”
He warned: “Unlike prescription contacts, the production and sale of cosmetic lenses is completely unregulated by UK law. By using these products, people are risking the health of one of the most sensitive organs in their body for very little return.”
Optical Express has highlighted that cosmetic and coloured contact lenses have been increasingly popular in recent years after featuring in films such as Twilight.
The multiple emphasises that celebrities like Michelle Keegan and Selena Gomez, as well as Kendall and Kylie Jenner have also experimented with coloured cosmetic lenses as a fashion statement. Brown-eyed Our Girl actress Michelle Keegan was spotted wearing diamond-blue coloured contact lenses earlier this month.
However, Dr Teenan warned: “Dyes used in coloured cosmetic lenses, depending on their quality, can contain toxic heavy metals, including mercury and lead, which can leak into the wearer’s eye and nervous system.”
He added: “Halloween favourites like cat eyes and blackout lenses can reduce the wearer’s peripheral vision affecting mobility and balance, and would make driving extremely dangerous.”
He highlighted: “As many cosmetic contact lens wearers aren’t used to hygienic insertion and removal techniques, we unfortunately see lots of patients with infections and complications, particularly after Halloween.
“The cornea is a very fragile and sensitive tissue that can easily be damaged and scratched by inexperienced contact lens wearers. When the cornea is scratched, it is easy for bacteria and viruses to spread, which could cause irritation, swelling, discharge, and even sight-threatening infections and loss of vision.”
Dr Teenan emphasised: “The only way to make sure that cosmetic lenses are safe is to have them checked by an experienced optical professional. Contact lenses are not ‘one size fits all’ and should only be dispensed and fitted by qualified and General Optical Council-registered clinicians.”
Despite the risks posed by costume contact lenses, many people will still risk their vision this Halloween, according to the multiple.
Dr Teenan warned the public: “If you are going to use contact lenses to complete your Halloween look this year, buy them from a reputable company and visit your local optometrist for advice before wearing them.
“Bear in mind that these lenses are only designed to be worn for a couple of hours, and take extreme care when inserting and removing them.
“If you experience any difficulty, complications or side-effects from your Halloween lenses, please contact your local optometrist immediately.”