FDA says costume contact lenses could lead to infections

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) — As many of you get ready to put the finishing touches on your Halloween costume, there’s one accessory you’ll want to leave out — costume contact lenses.

Cosmetic or costume lenses are not approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). These lenses are considered very dirty and are sometimes covered in bacteria, according to FDA.

“It can cause eye infections, abrasions, neovascular ovations, things to that effect,” says Dr. Alex Bunich, an Ophthalmologist with Dilworth Eye Associates on East Boulevard in Charlotte. Dr. Bunich reminds everyone that contact lenses are medical devices and should not be used as a dress-up accessory.

“It does alter the physiology, the fundamental physiology of your eyes,” he says.

FDA says oftentimes costume lenses that are imported from other countries are counterfeit, according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Department. When seized by U.S. Customs, testing showed some lenses contained bacteria and other contaminants. The FDA also warns that lead-based materials used to create the lens’s color, can seep into your eye.

“There’s absolutely no quality control when these lenses are created or packaged,” says Dr. Bunich, “So for all we know they’re coming in from a third-world country, we don’t know what’s going on with the water. There are certain bacteria, certain micro-bacteria that are available in most waters and if they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time then they can cause some pretty traumatic eye infections.”

In the worst of cases, doctors say those infections could lead to temporary or even permanent loss of sight.

But if you’re still not scared and plan on wearing costume lenses this Halloween, Dr. Bunich said there are problem signs you should look for.

“Problems are defined by if they feel a foreign body in their eye, any cloudiness, and issues with their vision, any redness. Make sure out take that lens out and get to an eye doctor as fast as possible,” he says.

Now if you spot costume lenses being sold in North Carolina, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement wants to know. They’re asking you to report the incident to the ICE tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or www.ice.gov/tipline.

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