Are Contact Lenses Safe From COVID-19? Maybe. Maybe Not.
Do you wear contact lenses? If so, maybe it is time to switch to glasses.
Health experts suggest that it is time to put your contact lenses away and wear glasses, the first reason being, to stop you from touching your face, which is the fastest way the novel coronavirus can spread. Dr. Thomas Steinemann, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology said, “Contact lens users not only touch their eyes to put in and remove their lens twice or more a day, they also touch their eyes and face much more than people who don’t wear contacts”.
There is a higher chance of the virus entering the body through the mouth and nose area than from our eyes. However, because there is a possibility that it can, taking precautions will be necessary. In fact, wearing glasses can be a bit more helpful in protecting you from coronavirus particles in the air and potentially serve as another form of a filter.
COVID-19's Connection to Pink Eye
From what the reports are showing, it seems that COVID-19 has a connection to Conjunctivitis or a highly contagious condition known as pink eye. Some reports from China and around the world have shown that 1% - 3% of the patients with COVID-19 have also had conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the thin, transparent layer called conjunctiva and this tissue covers the white part of the eye. Dr. Steinemann has mentioned, “It’s moist and nice and hospitable for viruses, in fact there’s lots of organisms that can stick very readily to your conjunctiva, or for that matter, stick on a contact lens that is also resting on your conjunctiva”. Symptoms of conjunctivitis are tearing, itching or burning, blurred vision, red or “pink” coloration in the white parts of the eye, pus, mucus, and a yellow discharge over the eyelashes.
Why Does This Matter?
A main concern revolving around this condition is that the coronavirus can potentially spread by touching the fluid from an infected patient’s eyes or from objects that the patient has touched, which may have left the fluid with the virus particle on the objects themselves. Because of this, the ophthalmologists (including both office and surgical care) were told to stop seeing patients for anything except for emergency cases such as eye injuries.
Should I be Concerned?
Although some cases showed these symptoms, it is still unknown whether the novel coronavirus can spread by tears. Just because some infected patients had conjunctivitis does not mean that a pink eye will be a definitive sign of COVID-19.
There may be a variety of viruses and bacteria that can also cause a pink eye as any organism can stick to your conjunctiva as well as on contact lenses that are resting on the surface of your eyes. Some of the factors that can cause such conditions are the common cold, fungi, amoebas and parasites picked up from swimming in contaminated waters, and allergic reactions to smoke, dust, shampoos, pool chlorine, and even eye drops. In addition, seasonal allergies, a sty, a chalazion, blepharitis, or iritis can also cause a pink eye.
Nevertheless, be aware that if you are showing other signs of COVID-19 such as, fever, cough or shortness of breath followed by the listed symptoms of a pink eye, you should call your doctor.
What Can I Do?
Whether you wear contact lenses or glasses, now is the time to pay more attention to hygiene and be conscientious about washing your hands and not touching your face. If you do wear contact lenses, consider putting them aside and wearing glasses instead. If not, make sure to disinfect your contact lenses every time you wear them.
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