Times have changed whether we like it or not. We’re all experiencing an unprecedented shift in our daily routines due to COVID-19. One group of people most affected by “the new normal” are contact lens wearers, since one cardinal rule for safety is to avoid touching your face. Contact lens wearers touch their eyes more than the average person.
Firstly, how can the coronavirus affect your eyes?
Someone who has coronavirus can transfer virus particles to your face when they cough, sneeze, or talk. You are likely to breathe these tiny droplets in through your mouth or nose. However, the droplets can also enter your body through your eyes. You can also become infected by touching something that has the virus on it and then touching your eyes.
Should contact lens wearers shift to spectacles to prevent contamination?
Currently there is no evidence to suggest that shifting from contact lenses to spectacles can help prevent coronavirus. Spectacles can act as an additional barrier which shields your eyes from infected respiratory droplets, but the virus can still reach your eyes from the exposed sides, tops and bottoms of your glasses. If your purpose for switching to spectacles is to prevent respiratory droplets from entering your eyes, then safety goggles or a face shield might offer better protection.
Likewise, there is no evidence to suggest that there is any increased risk of infection or contracting coronavirus through contact lens wear as long as the wearer is observing good contact lens hygiene. However, if you are someone who constantly touches your eyes whilst wearing contact lenses, perhaps it is best to switch to spectacles for the meantime.
So, is it still safe to continue using contact lenses during these times?
Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert, says it is safe for people to continue wearing contact lenses as long as they remain diligent about washing their hands.
Dr Poland states, “I don’t think the issue is so much the contact lenses as it is hand hygiene before inserting or taking out the contact lenses. You certainly want to wash, and you don’t want to use an alcohol-based hand rub because you’ll feel it in your eye. But wash your hands well before inserting and taking them out.”
He says everyone, whether they wear contact lenses or not, should avoid rubbing or itching their eyes.
Things to Remember If You Choose to Wear Contact Lenses Now
Follow strict hygiene measures such as thoroughly washing your hands with an antibacterial soap and drying your hands before and after insertion and removal of your lenses.
- Follow optimal wear and care procedures. These include replacing your contact lenses as prescribed, case hygiene for reusable contact lenses and avoiding lens wear if you are unwell (in particular, if you have any cold or flu-like symptoms).
- Remember to avoid touching your eyes at all times, most especially in high risk environments.
- If you experience any eye discomfort or irritation, discontinue use. Consult your local eyecare professional.