As in all other areas of our daily lives, Covid19 is wreaking havoc among contact lens users, too. It seems that there is much confusion currently if it is safe to wear contact lenses during the pandemic. In April we had the American Academy of Ophthalmology suggesting putting your contact lenses away and start wearing glasses. Then we had the CDC’s Coronavirus Disease website note that for people who are healthy and practice safe hygiene habits, contact lenses are perfectly safe.
In the meantime, articles like this one from CNN started pushing people towards glasses – not because there is something wrong with lenses, but simply because the belief that people wearing glasses tend to touch their face less on average.
If we’ve learned something in the last 6 months it’s that touching your face, and especially the eyes, nose and mouth, helps spread the coronavirus. By wearing contact lenses you’ll not only touch your eyes to put in and remove the lens at least twice a day, you are also more prone to touching your eyes and face than people who don’t wear contacts.
The basic premise why contact lens users would be more exposed to the virus is a study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which found that one-third of contact lens users were non-compliant with proper hygiene practices, such as washing hands, when putting in and taking out their contact lens.
Another study also found contact lens wearers worldwide may not be as compliant to the recommended hygienic practises in contact lens wear as they think they are. A large proportion of patients remain noncompliant, both consciously and otherwise, despite awareness of risk.
Switch to Glasses Then?
However, while wearing glasses and other eye protection is critical for any health professional taking care of patients with Covid-19, it’s actually not likely that you can get coronavirus – or any virus for that matter – through the eye itself.
While theoretically possible, there is no actual proof that it has happened, or that it can happen at all. So, if the virus cannot be transferred through the eyes in practise, should you switch your contact lenses for glasses? The answer is: No, you don’t have to.
A peer-reviewed paper published in Contact Lens & Anterior Eye has confirmed that contact lenses are an acceptable form of vision correction during the coronavirus pandemic (read here).
There is currently no evidence to suggest that there is any increased risk of infection or contracting coronavirus through contact lens wear. Furthermore, there is also no evidence to suggest that wearing glasses after having worn contact lenses will make you less prone to touch your face.
According to the College of Optometrists in the UK, it’s perfectly safe to wear your contact lenses as normal during the pandemic. We also have a group of leading experts who state that there isn’t currently any evidence that suggests wearing contact lenses increases the risk of contracting covid-19.
I understand why people who work in high risk environments switch to glasses and other eye protection gear. You don’t want to take any chances and you need every extra filter and layer you can put between you and the virus, even if it is just to keep you feeling safe.
However, if you are not in a high-risk environment, and there are no sick people in your immediate vicinity throughout the day, there is no proof that wearing glasses instead of contact lenses does anything to lower your risk of getting infected.
Just remember to follow strict hygiene measures, including thorough handwashing along with optimal wear and care procedures as prescribed by your eye care provider. These include replacing lenses as prescribed, case hygiene for reusable lenses and avoiding lens wear if you feel unwell.
Healthy Habits to Safely Wear Your Contact Lenses
The CDC recommends the following healthy habits to wear your contact lens safely during the covid19 pandemic and help protect your eyes:
- Don’t sleep in your contact lenses;
- Always wash your hands with soap and water and then dry them with a clean cloth before handling your lenses;
- Keep contact lenses away from all water;
- Properly clean your lenses as prescribed by your eye care provider;
- Take care of your contact lens case;
- Remove your contact lenses immediately and call your eye care provider if you have eye pain, discomfort, redness, or blurred vision;
- Carry a backup pair of glasses with a current prescription, just in case you have to take out your contact lenses.
Keep social distancing and always wash your hands and use hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your face, don’t rub your eye and disinfect your contact lenses. If you follow some simple healthy habits and practise eye care hygiene as prescribed by your provider, you can still wear your contact lenses knowing you are perfectly safe.