As Halloween approaches and many people consider their costumes, Health Canada is reminding consumers that decorative contact lenses pose health risks. It’s important to use these lenses safely.
Decorative contact lenses (sometimes called “fashion,” “costume,” “cosmetic” or “coloured” contact lenses) don’t correct vision; they change how eyes look. They are typically sold at costume and novelty shops, at cosmetic retailers and online.
All types of contact lenses, including decorative lenses, pose health risks, including:
- cuts or scratches to the top layer of the eyeball (corneal abrasions);
- allergic reactions (e.g., itchy, watery, red eyes);
- impaired vision;
- infections; and
Risks of side effects (also known as adverse reactions) from contact lenses are higher for smokers and people with certain health conditions, such as eye infections or dry eyes. The risk of adverse effects with unlicensed decorative contact lenses may be higher than with licensed prescription contact lenses.
To help make decorative contact lenses safer, Health Canada began regulating these products as medical devices in 2016. This means that they must be licensed by Health Canada before they can be sold. Selling unlicensed health products in Canada is illegal.
Decorative contact lenses licensed by Health Canada are assessed for safety, effectiveness and quality. Using unlicensed decorative contact lenses could pose a risk to your health. As of October 2018, the following companies manufacture decorative contact lenses that are licensed by Health Canada:
- Alcon Laboratories Inc.
- Bausch & Lomb Inc.
- Ciba Vision Corporation
- Coopervision Inc.
- Geo Medical Co., Ltd.
- Les Lesieur Enterprises Inc.
- Neo Vision Co. Ltd.
- Unicon Optical Co., Ltd.
The licence status of products changes frequently. Consumers can search the online Medical Devices Active Licence Listing database to verify whether their decorative contact lenses are licensed by using the product name or company shown on the packaging, or by calling Health Canada at 1-800-267-9675.
What you should do
- Use only licensed decorative contact lenses, which you can verify by using the above link.
- Properly clean and disinfect your decorative contact lenses as directed in the product instructions.
- Wash and thoroughly dry your hands before handling and cleaning decorative contact lenses.
- Never swap or share decorative contact lenses with anyone.
- Never sleep while wearing decorative contact lenses unless they are extended-wear lenses designed for that purpose.
- Contact an eye care professional if you have used decorative contact lenses and have health concerns. If you experience any redness, blurred vision, ongoing discharge or sensitivity to light, remove the lenses immediately and contact an eye care professional. If left untreated, these symptoms could lead to blindness.
- Talk to an eye care professional if you are considering using decorative lenses this Halloween, or for any other purpose. These professionals can provide advice on the proper contact lens material, fitting design, and care regime that works best for your eyes.
Anyone with information regarding non-compliant activities or health concerns involving the use of decorative contact lenses is encouraged to report them to Health Canada.