ATLANTA, Ga. -- It's the time of year when millions are putting the finishing touches on their Halloween costumes, but one detail that completes your look could also give you a bad eye infection: color contact lenses.
Costume shops like Norcostco on Monroe Drive get dozens of phone calls asking for the special lenses each week. They can make your pupil look like a cat's or change colors.
But they are illegal in the US without a license or prescription, so the employees at Norcostco recommend those callers talk to their local optometrist.
"They are very popular items, you just do not want to put foreign items in your eyeballs that aren't prescription-based," said manager Carla Raleigh.
That's exactly what they'll hear from an eye doctor. The lenses sold in stores are not based on a prescription for the customer's eye, and therefore can damage it. They can cause slight to severe infections, and even lead to blindness in rare cases.
"One size doesn't fit all, when you go and buy your shoes, if you wear a size 12 and you buy a size 7, it's not going to work really well," said Dr. Stuart Tasman, President of the Georgia Optometric Association.
That's why they're illegal to sell, and the stores that do so anyway are risking a $10,000 fine. 11Alive found several costume stores in the metro area selling the lenses, even with the label "FDA approved."
The FDA strongly recommends Halloween customers buy lenses only from their optometrist. They said anywhere else is an unregulated risk. Tasman still expects to see multiple patients with eye problems due to the lenses again this year.
"Everything would be a lot easier if you concentrate on your costume, and let us take care of your eyes," Tasman said.