Colored Contact Lens Risks Highlighted Before Halloween

This time of year, many people turn to colored contact lenses to put the finishing touches on their unique halloween costumes. However, a new study warns consumers to exercise more caution when using colored contacts at any time during the year, due to the potential risk of serious eye damage. 

A study conducted at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University School of Optometry found that the pigments in colored contact lenses may easily come off and may be more susceptible to microorganisms than the typical clear prescription contacts.

Researchers focused on 15 brands of colored contacts bought from different sources, including the internet, cabinet stores and optical shops. The colored contacts had surface colored pigments, color embedded and color sandwiched within the lenses. Five types of lenses were used for each brand involved in the study.

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Thirteen brands of lenses failed the standard rub-off test. During the standard lab-based test, the pigments rubbed off the lenses, which revealed the pigments weren’t imbedded or sandwiched.

Researchers then tested the colored contact lenses and compared the level of microbial adhesion. All lenses which failed the rub-off test had six times higher microbial adhesion than the two brands which passed the test.

Next, the team compared colored lenses with their clear contact lens counterparts. The lenses used were made of the same material and contained the same water content, but with no pigment. The lenses that failed the rub-off test had higher levels of microorganisms, compared to the clear lens counterparts.

The colored contact lenses that passed the rub-off test revealed no significant difference in microbial adhesion compared to the clear lenses.

Researchers concluded the surface pigment on colored contact lenses is most likely the factor which leads to higher levels of microorganisms on the lenses.

This study is the first in the world to compare microbial adhesion in colored lenses. Other similar studies have only focused on clear hydrogel and silicone hydrogel lenses.

FDA Warnings About Problems from Colored Contacts

Health experts have warned to be wary when buying clear contact lenses as fashion accessories or to complete a costume, including the FDA, which updated a consumer warning this week to highlight the dangers of colored contact lenses, also known as fashion color and decorative contacts.

The FDA consumer update highlights improper use of contact lenses, which can cause severe eye damage. Although most colored lenses are used for cosmetic purposes only, they should still be properly fitted by a licensed eye doctor.

Lenses are not one size fits all and each eye should be properly measured and evaluated to determine how the eye responds to wear, according to federal health regulators. Consumers have also been cautioned to never exchange or borrow lenses from other users.

Improper contact lens use can result in serious eye damage, including scratched cornea, corneal infection, conjunctivitis, decreased vision and blindness.

During Halloween and other holidays, many non-regular contact lens users will opt to wear colored lenses. The FDA urges consumers to seek help from professional contact lens practitioners and avoid buying lenses from street vendors, the internet and other dubious means of sale. The FDA also reminded consumers contact lenses are not merely a cosmetic or over-the-counter item. Instead, contacts are considered a medical device and regulated by the FDA.

Photo Courtesy of istolethetv via Flickr Creative Commons

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