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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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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