Beware of novelty contact lenses this Halloween

Write Way to HealthAs Halloween approaches some people may be considering the use of novelty contact lenses to add some extra drama to their scary costume. But Optometry Australia is warning that non-prescription accessory lenses can be dangerous and lead to significant, long-term eye damage.


The peak professional body for optometrists advises that buying novelty lenses online or over the counter can lead to eye infections, damage, and even permanent blindness.

Optometry Australia’s resident optometrist Luke Arundel strongly recommends seeking professional guidance before using contact lenses.

“The surface of the eye is extremely delicate and wearing non-prescribed novelty contact lenses, particularly those from a dubious source, could cause eye damage ranging from mild infections to sight-threatening conditions such as corneal scarring and even blindness,” he said.

“Contact lenses are not ‘one size fits all’. If people want to enhance their Halloween look with fancy dress lenses, it is important to make sure the lenses are prescribed by an optometrist who will measure each eye to properly fit the lenses and evaluate how the eye responds to contact lens wear using a microscope.

“The optometrist will then instruct them on appropriate insertion and removal techniques and correct contact lens care to minimise the risk of irreversible eye damage,” he said.

Suppliers of playfully packaged novelty contact lenses often target unsuspecting teenagers and young adults who are usually unaware of the dangers associated with buying contact lenses without a prescription and of the need for proper eye care.

Write Way to Health“Many people are using contacts for the first time when they buy them for a costume and they often don’t know how to insert and remove the lenses safely. This further increases the risk of scratching or damaging the eye,” said Mr Arundel.

A recent study also found that cosmetic contact lenses available online often circumvent regulation from safety agencies such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and can contain harmful chemicals such as chlorine, which can seep from the colourants in the lens to cause toxicity problems for the eyes. [i]

Jessica Chi, National President of the Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia, said that contact lenses provide an effective and safe method of vision correction when prescribed properly by an optometrist, but that novelty lenses require the same high level of care to be worn safely.

She recommends the following tips for safe wear of contact lenses at Halloween (or any time of the year):

  • Have contact lenses properly fitted at an optometrist who will also instruct you on correct insertion, removal and cleaning of lenses.
  • Always wash hands before touching contacts and never store or clean contacts with tap water.
  • Don’t sleep in contact lenses unless advised it is safe to do so by your optometrist.
  • If your eyes become red, sensitive to light, painful, gunky or your vision becomes blurred remove lenses and see an optometrist ASAP.

For more information on optometry services in Australia, including finding your local optometrist, visit

Based on a Press Release from Optometry Australia, 20/10/15


You’re never too old to be medicinewise

diferent Tablets pills capsule heap mixIn a recent survey of Australian adults more than half (52%) believed that all adults have the same risk of experiencing side effects from prescription medicine, regardless of age. Only 16% of respondents believed that those aged over 65 years are at greater risk of medicine side effects than those aged 18 to 64 years.*

This is just one of many misconceptions surrounding medicine. According to NPS MedicineWise the way our body handles and reacts to medicines can gradually change, as we age.

Older people can become more sensitive to medicine side effects and medicine interactions as they age, and the way the body processes medicines can change.

NPS MedicineWise Clinical Adviser Dr Andrew Boyden says, “Things don’t suddenly change when you turn 65, but gradual changes over time mean that the effect a medicine has on someone a little older could be different to the effect a medicine had when they were younger. Age-related changes need to be taken into account and can affect a health professional’s recommendations regarding the types and doses of medicine that are suitable.

“It’s important for people to be aware that they can become more sensitive to medicines as they age. Side effects can lead to serious consequences such as falls, broken bones, accidents and hospitalisation.”

Results from the survey also revealed that 37% of respondents aged 65 and older said they had taken five or more different types of prescription medicines over the past month.

With many older Australians taking multiple medicines, it can be a contributing factor to medicines mistakes. Around one third of unplanned hospital admissions involving older Australians are due to problems with medicines and many of these could be prevented.

Pills And Water“Generally speaking if more than five medicines a day are being taken (and that includes prescription, over-the-counter and complementary medicines), the risk of experiencing side effects and interactions greatly increases,” says Dr Boyden.

“A key part of being medicinewise is learning the best ways to manage multiple medicines. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist, or other health professional. There are many tools and resources available that can help, like packaging and reminder systems.”

If you take multiple medicines ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medicines, particularly if you are aged over 65 years.

Further information is available here.

*Online survey of 1,000 adults undertaken by Galaxy Research for NPS MedicineWise 17-20 September, 2015.

Based on a Media Release from NPS Medicine, 16/10/15