They're a popular but hazardous Halloween trend: creepy zombie or vampire contact lenses that make a costume look frightfully realistic. One Michigan teen found out the hard way, these accessories can pose serious risks.
Seventeen-year-old Leah Carpenter is partially blinded in her right eye after a zombie contact lens damaged her cornea, the Detroit Free Press reports. Carpenter and some friends reportedly bought the "WickedEyez" lenses a few weeks ago from a vendor at a weekend market in Mount Clemens, Michigan.
But after wearing them for a few hours at a school event, she had trouble getting them out and her vision started to bother her, Leah's mother, Dawn Carpenter, told the paper. The next morning, her right eye was swollen shut.
It's a scenario health officials have repeatedly tried to warn about. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- which regulates the safety of medical devices including contact lenses -- highlighted a similar case from 2010 in which a young woman named Laura Butler paid $30 for decorative lenses to turn her brown eyes blue, wound up with $2,000 in medical bills and nearly lost an eye.
"Places that advertise [contact lenses] as cosmetics or sell them without a prescription are breaking the law," the FDA advises. It says lenses should only be bought from an eye doctor and "they are not 'one size fits all' ... A poor fit can cause serious eye damage, including scratches on the cornea," apparently the same type of injury Leah Carpenter experienced.
"What happens to people's eyes after just one evening of wearing non-prescription costume contact lenses is tragic," Dr. Thomas Steinemann, a professor of ophthalmology at MetroHealth Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said in a statement on the academy's website. "I understand how tempting it is to dress up your eyes on Halloween without a prescription and using over-the-counter lenses, but people should not let one night of fun ruin their vision for a lifetime."
The Detroit Free Press reports that at first, Leah Carpenter could only see shadows out of her right eye, but she has started to regain some of her vision. Her mother told the paper that Leah may need eye surgery and they don't know if her vision will ever fully recover.