COVID-19 Contact Lenses and Glasses

As with many other facets of life in this new world of the novel corona virus, the eye care world has not been spared from circulating rumors and false information.  For your quick reference, below are key points for your knowledge derived from knowledgeable sources:  The CDC (Centers for Disease Control), The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association.

Always exercise proper hand washing when using contact lenses or even glasses.  That means 20 seconds of vigorous soap and warm water and drying with clean paper towels.  If and only if a sink is not available, an approved alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be used.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are never a substitute for normal hand washing, especially if the skin is visibly soiled.  Unfortunately, most Americans somehow feel this gives them a higher level of cleaning and/or protection.  That is false. Too much use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer without a moisturizer lotion afterwards can create dry, chapped skin which can harbor bacterial growth and expose the blood system via capillaries directly to the environment.  Not good.

Contact lenses will NOT give you COVID-19¹.  Of note, however, is that contact lens wearers may touch their faces and eyes when inserting and removing contact lenses.  An extra level of hygiene would be for the contact lens wearer to wash BOTH their hand and face.

Disinfect your contact lenses like you always should have been doing according to the manufacturer and/or your optometrist of ophthalmologist.  Even better, utilize Daily Disposable contact lenses!

Stop wearing your contacts IF you are sick.  Even non-COVID-19 illnesses including viral and bacterial can threaten the ocular health of a patient wearing contact lenses.  It is best to only wear your glasses and wash your glasses daily.  The New England Journal of Medicine published a large study² on 28 February, 2020 whereby it was found that 0.8% of patients had conjunctival congestion (eye redness or pink-eye).  This is relatively typical for most viral sickness. Depending on the severity of the disease, the eye ‘redness’ may be more pronounced.  Many strains of virus cause ‘pink eye’. Additionally, as we are getting into Spring and Summer, allergic conjunctivitis is becoming more prevalent. A new study coming out of Singapore suggests viral shedding through tears is unlikely³.  You should always have a back-up pair of glasses.  I’m amazed at how many of my patients act like contact lenses are a medical necessity.  There are some rare cases, however most contact lens wearers can get by with eyeglasses.  Insure you’ve got your back-up glasses.

Glasses do not protect you from COVID-19 or other viral transmissions.  No scientific evidence exists.  A face shield and/or certain safety glasses may protect the ocular surface however typical fashion eyeglasses do not.

If your contact lens prescription is recently expired or will expire soon, please contact your eye doctor or our office.  We are working to insure you have continued access to clear and safe vision and will extend the contact lens expiration date for our patients within reason.  Do know that there has been no change to Federal Food and Drug laws regarding contact lenses.  Proper approval and verification steps are still in full force.

Also, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to call our office for guidance.  Be safe!

Warm regards,

¹ https://www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/protect-your-eyes.html

² https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa2002032

³ https://www.aaojournal.org/article/S0161-6420(20)30311-0/fulltext

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