CASPER, Wyo. — Halloween is just over a week away.

While some people might be planning to incorporate colored or decorative contact lenses into their costumes, the United States Food and Drug Administration is urging caution.

They say that contacts are never one-size-fits-all and lenses that poorly fit the eyes can have these negative effects:

  • scratches on the cornea (the clear dome of tissue over the iris—the part of the eye that gives you your eye color)
  • corneal infection (an ulcer or sore on the cornea)
  • conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • decreased vision
  • blindness

“Places that sell decorative lenses without a prescription may give you few or no instructions on how to clean and care for your lenses,” the FDA adds. “Failure to use the proper solution to keep contact lenses clean and moist can lead to infections. Bacterial infections can be extremely rapid, result in corneal ulcers, and cause blindness—sometimes within as little as 24 hours if not diagnosed and treated promptly.”

Those wishing to find safe contact lenses should do so only by obtaining a prescription from a licensed eye doctor, the FDA says.

They warn against purchasing lenses from vendors who will illegally provide contacts without a prescription. The FDA encourages people to avoid:

  • street vendors
  • salons or beauty supply stores
  • boutiques
  • flea markets
  • novelty stores
  • Halloween stores
  • record or video stores
  • convenience stores
  • beach shops
  • Internet sites that do not require a prescription

“They are not cosmetics or over-the-counter merchandise,” the FDA says of contacts. “They are medical devices regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Places that advertise them as cosmetics or sell them over-the-counter, without a prescription, are breaking the law.”

Anyone who locates websites that may be selling contact lenses illegally are asked to report it to the FDA.

Tips for obtaining an appropriate set of contact lenses are as follows:

Get an eye exam from a licensed eye doctor (ophthalmologist or optometrist), even if you feel your vision is perfect.

Get a valid prescription that includes the brand name, lens measurements, and an expiration date.

Buy the lenses from a seller that requires you to provide a prescription, whether you purchase them in person or shop online.

Follow all directions for cleaning, disinfecting, and wearing the lenses, and visit your eye doctor for follow-up eye exams. It‘s especially important to read and follow all instructions because you can injure your eyes if you do not use these medical device products according to the labeling. (See additional information about cleaning solutions with hydrogen peroxide on the FDA website.) FDA

Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical attention:

  • redness
  • eye pain that doesn’t go away after a short time
  • decrease in vision