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COVID-19: Is It Safe To Wear Contact Lenses During The Pandemic?

As of today, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India is 59662, with 17847 recovered cases and 1981 deaths. The concerns related to COVID-19 pandemic is increasing day by day. The WHO and CDC along with many healthcare institutions are coming out with several valid information on how to limit the infection.

Along with factual information, many rumours and misinformation have also been circulated on social media. A recent rumour states that contact lens wearers are at an increased risk of developing COVID-19. Is it true? Read on to know.

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COVID-19 And Contact Lenses

Contact lenses (CL) are worn by people to correct their vision. Around 140 million people around the world wear CL daily. A study says that bacterial keratitis is more in people who wear CL, particularly in people who wear overnight lenses. [1] A common type of conjunctivitis is also found in CL wearers. However, the eyes have several host-defence mechanisms that reduce the chances of these infections and keep them safe.

A study published in the journal of Medical Virology on 26 February 2020 states the presence of COVID-19 virus in tears and conjunctival secretions. [2] The virus is known to transmit through contaminated hands, considering the fact that CL wearers touch their eyes every time while applying and removing lenses.

The cases of conjunctivitis in COVID-19 patients are reported to be less than three per cent. The possible transmission of the virus is through aerosol of the patients who have conjunctiva and are COVID-19 positive.

The above factors include that as long as CL wearers adhere to hand hygiene, COVID-19 infection along with other infections will be limited on the surface of their eyes. [3] There's no current evidence proving people who wear lenses are at higher risk of developing COVID-19 compared to people who don't.

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Guidelines To Ensure Safety Of Contact Lens Wearers

  • Maintain hand hygiene: Before wearing contact lenses, follow proper hand hygiene guidelines given by the WHO and CDC. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and pat them with a paper towel. Follow the same while removing lenses.
  • Disinfect contact lenses: Consider wearing daily disposable lenses so that you can dispose of them every evening. If wearing long shelf-life lenses, disinfect them daily or twice weekly or as per instructed by ocular professionals.
  • Avoid rubbing eyes: When you wear CL, avoid touching or rubbing eyes with contaminated hands. If you feel uneasiness or dry eyes, remove them to avoid touching the eyes many times. The advice is for all those who wear or not wear CL.
  • Contact lens material: CL made up of silicone hydrogels are more likely to bind COVID-19 virus than hydrogels. Therefore, lenses made with these materials are very risky to wear. The study needs more research.
  • Avoid wearing if you have symptoms: If you are COVID-19 positive or doubt the infection, stop wearing the lenses and dispose of them immediately. Wear spectacle and consider wearing a new pair of lenses when recovered.
  • Spectacles don't protect: If you wear specs and work in the healthcare industry where every day you need to take care of COVID-19 patients, don't consider specs safe from the infection. Wear eye-protective gears advised by experts to prevent from COVID-19 infection.
Story first published: Saturday, May 9, 2020, 17:30 [IST]