The Scariest Part of Halloween May Be Costume Contact Lenses, an Eye Doctor Says
Your appearance won't be the only frightening thing about wearing costume contact lenses this Halloween. Your eyes might look like a lizard's for an evening, but the risk of permanent vision loss may not be worth the temporary thrill.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 40 million, or about one in six, Americans wear contact lenses. It is difficult to estimate how many revelers wear costume contact lenses, but the number surely surges around Halloween. It is my experience that the demand for these lenses is highest in young people, the same demographic that is at the highest risk for experiencing infectious and inflammatory complications from their contact lenses.
As an optometrist on staff at a Central Ohio private practice and on faculty at The Ohio State University College of Optometry, I frequently work with patients who wear contact lenses. Most of them do not realize that the Food and Drug Administration classifies all contact lenses as either Class II or Class III medical devices. That means that contact lenses are medical devices that pose at least a moderate risk to health when used without the appropriate oversight from an eye doctor.
Fungi, Infections and Parasites … Oh My
All contact lenses have the potential to cause serious complications in the eye. Contact lens wearers are at a higher risk than nonwearers for eye infections from bacteria, fungi and parasites. An infection from one of these microscopic organisms can rob you of your central vision.
Also remember that a contact lens is a piece of plastic that covers the eye and can prevent oxygen from reaching its front surface. New blood vessel growth, redness, watering and pain are all signs and symptoms that an eye is starved for oxygen.
Most contact lenses are generally safe for patients who wear them in adherence with instructions from their eye doctor. The problem is that many patients are not adherent, displaying at least one high-risk contact lens behavior, research has shown. Although there is no comprehensive study on the issue, eye doctors hear plenty of anecdotal evidence that risky behaviors increase in patients wearing costume contact lenses.
Of those risky behaviors, sleeping in your contact lenses is perhaps the most dangerous. In fact, it puts you at a high risk of getting an infection in your cornea, the clear dome that covers the front of the eye.
It is not hard to think of reasons why patients may be tempted to sleep in their costume contact lenses. First, they likely think of their contact lenses as cosmetic accessories, not durable medical devices. Second, they might not wear contact lenses outside of Halloween time and are therefore unaware of the risks associated with contact lens misuse. Finally, an adult beverage or two probably distorts the decision-making processes of otherwise compliant contact lens wearers. They just want to get to bed – removing their contact lenses can wait for tomorrow!
Decorative contact lenses are also risky because they might not fit your eye as they should. Contact lenses are not one-size-fits-all. They come in different materials, shapes and sizes. Only with the help of your eye doctor can you determine if a contact lens is healthy for your eye. This is the reason that the sale of nonprescription costume contact lenses is illegal in the United States. Poorly fitting costume contact lenses can cause many eye problems, including surface abrasions, allergic reactions and blurred vision.
But Go Ahead … Live a Little, With a Doctor’s Help
Still, costume contact lenses can be a safe, fun way to spice up your Halloween ensemble.
The process begins with a comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. After ensuring that your eyes are healthy and that you are seeing well, your doctor will fit you in contact lenses that are safe for you to wear. You will also receive instructions on how to clean and handle your lenses and on how long you can wear them. At the end of the exam, your doctor will give you a prescription for the contact lenses. Now you're ready to go.
Use this prescription to purchase your lenses through a trusted vendor, such as your local optical shop. While buying costume contact lenses online is certainly convenient, you need to know that online retailers of costume contact lenses may be unregulated and may provide you with a lens that is dangerous to wear. Remember, the FDA requires that a prescription accompany all purchases of costume contact lenses. Any website selling these lenses without a prescription is breaking the law, and the FDA wants to know about it.
If you decide to wear costume contact lenses this Halloween, you need to be aware of symptoms that might indicate that your lenses are causing a problem. Red eyes, blurred vision, pain and light sensitivity are all possible indicators of potentially serious contact lens complications.
If you experience any one of these symptoms, remove your contact lenses immediately and then call your local optometrist or ophthalmologist for further instruction. Most episodes of complications can be effectively treated with prescription eye drops. But it's best to avoid all instances of contact lens complications, because some can lead to blindness.
Remember, although they are an exciting accessory, costume contact lenses are not toys. Serious, vision-threatening consequences can follow even one night of mishandling or sleeping in costume contact lenses. If you want to wear them, be sure you visit your eye doctor for a prescription and avoid online retailers that do not require a prescription.
As for me, I will stick with my clear prescription contact lenses this Halloween. Donning pointy ears and long whiskers will make me look like a cat, plenty enough.
Reposted with permission from our media partner The Conversation.
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This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
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