Accessorizing a Halloween costume with blood-drenched vampire eyes, glow-in-the-dark lizard lenses, or maybe even the newest fad, circle lenses are all trendy options. But most people don’t know the sight-stealing consequences behind these choices.

Websites often advertise decorative contacts as if they were cosmetics, fashion accessories, or toys. With whimsical, playful packaging and names like Dolly Eyes, their targets are often teens and young adults. But obtaining decorative lenses, including colored contacts and novelty or costume lenses, without a prescription is dangerous. And circle lenses, which are increasingly popular with teenage girls, are not FDA-approved.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and its partners the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) and the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists (CLAO), are warning parents and teens that buying any contact lenses without an eye exam and a prescription from a licensed eye care professional such as  an ophthalmologist—an eye medical doctor—can cause serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to blindness.

Look at it This Way

All contact lenses are medical devices that require a prescription and proper, professional fitting. Even if someone has perfect vision, he needs an eye exam and a prescription from an eye care professional to wear any kind of contacts, including cosmetic lenses.

Federal law classifies all contact lenses as medical devices and restricts their distribution to licensed eye care professionals. Illegal sale of contacts can result in civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation. Only buy decorative contact lenses from an eye care professional or a seller who asks for a prescription.

Further, there’s no such thing as “one-size-fits-all” contacts. Those that aren’t properly fitted may scratch the eye or cause blood vessels to grow into the cornea. Additionally, the eye care professional instructs the patient on appropriate contact lens care. Contacts that are not cleaned and disinfected increase the risk of eye infection.

Not everyone is a good candidate for contacts. People who have the following conditions may not be suitable candidates:

  • frequent eye infections
  • severe allergies
  • dry eye that‘s resistant to treatment
  • a very dusty work environment
  • an inability to handle and care for the lenses

For more information on the safe wearing of decorative lenses and regular contacts, visit