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Novelty contact lenses - know the risks

At this time of year, we get many people asking about novelty contact lenses. With lots of Halloween parties and events going on, it's a popular accessory, but there are true-to-life horrors that come with it...

Each year there appear to be more and more cases associated with novelty lenses bought from markets and joke shops. There are huge risks associated with purchasing items like this from unauthorised outlets instead of registered professionals - the simple fact is, there is an increased risk of blindness when using some of these lenses. By law, these types of cosmetic lenses should only ever be supplied in the UK by a registered and qualified optician or doctor.

These types of lenses can be picked up for as little as £6 in some places, with no advice of care or hygeine offered to those who buy them. When buying from registered professionals, contact lens wearers are always given strict advice on how to clean and manage their lenses, and novelty lenses are no different. Infections, ulcers, and even corneal tears are not uncommon amongst users of these unofficially sold lenses.

They're impressive to look at, but need to be bought from legitimate outlets and used properly
They're impressive to look at, but need to be bought from legitimate outlets and used properly

When the novelty wears off...

Some of the stories related to these lenses will make you wince. Just one example is Tia Goode from Wales, who was left in excruciating pain after tearing off her cornea whilst she was trying to remove a pair of cat-eye contact lenses back in 2015.

Badrul Hussain, an esteemed eye surgeon from Moorfields Eye Hospital in London has told of how he has seen an increasing number of these cases during the Halloween period (source: Metro)

"Some of the cases we see, like patients sharing lenses with friends, wearing the same pair year after year well past the expiry date, and storing them in tap water, have devastating effects"

Last year the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) issued a warning stating that these poor quality lenses could result in sight loss. Brian Tompkins, president of the BCLA said:

"Wearing fancy lenses might make you look cool for one night on Halloween but losing your sight could be a lifelong horror story".

Barracloughs does not recommend nor sell novelty contact lenses.

If you do still wish to wear them, here are some safety tips

  • Keep the lenses clean by using the recommended contact-lens solution, NOT tap water
  • Don't swap them or share them with your friends, cross-infection is a huge risk
  • Don't keep the lenses in all night long
  • Don't let them come into contact with water, in the shower or in a swimming pool for example
  • Know the law - it's illegal to sell contact lenses without the supervision of a registered professional

More tips can be found here.

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