Halloween is just around the corner, and many people are shopping for unique outfits to wear on this special night. However, there's one item that some people wear that can be more dangerous than people think…decorative contact lenses. People of all ages are interested in wearing these lenses because they can add the perfect touch to a Halloween costume.

There are two different types of decorative contact lenses. The first kind includes lenses that are specifically approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the second kind are not FDA-approved. These lenses look nearly identical when they are in the palm of someone's hand. However, before purchasing a pair of these contact lenses take a few minutes to review the following tips from Dr. Richard Hom, optometric director for WellPoint's Vision business. These tips can help people have a safe and enjoyable experience with their decorative contacts. Dr. Hom's suggests the following:

1. Get an Eye Exam from a Licensed Eye Care Professional. Even if you have absolutely perfect vision, you should always have an eye examination and obtain a prescription before wearing contact lenses. During the exam, the eye care professional will take an assessment to find out if you are a good candidate for wearing contacts (including decorative contacts). Individuals who have frequent eye infections, severe allergies, dry eyes, frequent exposure to dust or smoke, or an inability to handle and care for the lenses may not be suitable candidates for contact lenses. In addition, the designs that are painted on the costume contact lenses make the lenses thick and less permeable, so it's harder for oxygen to get through the lens to the eye; therefore, it's important to visit an ophthalmologist or optometrist to make sure your eyes can handle these lenses. Avoiding this step can cause a person to wear improperly fitted contact lenses that may scratch the eye and lead to serious eye problems and injuries.

2. Get a Valid Prescription for the Contact Lenses. There are a number of stores and websites that advertise and sell decorative lenses as cosmetics and sell them without a prescription. However, this is breaking the law. It is illegal to sell decorative lenses without a prescription in the United States. In fact, since 2005, there has been a law that classifies all contact lenses as medical devices and therefore restricts their distribution to licensed eye care professionals. (The laws on decorative lenses vary in countries outside the U.S.) A valid prescription should include the brand name, lens measurements and an expiration date. Keep in mind, eye care professionals (such as ophthalmologists and optometrists) will not prescribe the larger-than-normal contact lenses that give the wearer a wide-eyed look because these lenses have not been approved by the FDA.

3. Buy with Caution. These lenses should be purchased from an eye care professional or from a vendor who requires you to provide prescription information. The FDA knows that people have been able to purchase decorative contact lenses without a prescription; however, they warn against purchasing these items from unauthorized distributors of contact lenses. To be safe, avoid buying decorative contact lenses from the following places:
  • Halloween stores
  • Novelty stores
  • Boutiques
  • Street vendors
  • Salons or beauty supply stores
  • Flea markets
  • Video stores
  • The Internet (unless the website requires a prescription)

4. Clean with Care. Always follow the eye care provider's directions for cleaning, disinfecting and wearing the decorative contact lenses. Contact lenses that are not cleaned or disinfected properly can cause pain and lead to potentially serious infections. Go to a licensed eye care provider if there is any redness or eye pain that does not go away after a short period of time, or if there is any clouding or a decrease in vision.

5. Remember, Decorative Contact Lenses are Medical Devices. Decorative contact lenses should not be considered cosmetics or over-the-counter merchandise. They are medical devices that are regulated by the FDA.

Halloween is a fun time of the year; therefore, keep Dr. Hom's tips in mind if you want to wear decorative contact lenses with your costume. These tips will help you avoid scary situations that could haunt you for weeks.

About WellPoint

WellPoint is working to transform health care with trusted and caring solutions. Our health plan companies deliver quality products and services that give their members access to the care they need. With nearly 69 million people served by its affiliated companies, including more than 37 million enrolled in its family of health plans, WellPoint is one of nation's leading health benefits companies. WellPoint companies serve members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; and as the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensees for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as the Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in 10 New York City metropolitan and surrounding counties and as the Blue Cross or Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), and Wisconsin. In most of these service areas, WellPoint does business as Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, or Empire Blue Cross (in the New York service areas). It also serves customers in other states through its Amerigroup, CareMore and UniCare subsidiaries. To find out more about WellPoint, go to wellpoint.com.

Sources:FDA Consumer Health Information, October 2014U.S. Food and Drug Administration, October 2012 www.GetEyeSmart.org/eyesmart/eye-health-news/scary-lenses.cfm

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