At EYEcenter, we always want to be at the forefront of contact lens technologies and in the case of the current COVID-19 / Coronavirus challenge, we also want to keep our patients informed about the most current thinking about contact lens wear and COVID-19 as well as other systemic infection challenges.
The deluge of conflicting and in some cases, misleading information prompted global contact lens experts to act. A joint statement by three highly respected contact lens specialists and individuals: Lyndon Jones, director of the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) at the University of Waterloo (Canada); Philip Morgan, director of Eurolens Research at The University of Manchester (United Kingdom); and Jason Nichols, Associate Vice President Research and Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry (United States) and editor in chief of Contact Lens Spectrum provides the following information:
Contact Lens Wear is Safe. Despite myths and misinformation that have arisen in recent reports, contact lens wear remains a safe and highly effective form of vision correction for millions of people worldwide.
- Proper Hand Washing is Essential. When using contact lenses or spectacles, careful and thorough handwashing with soap and water followed by hand drying with unused paper towels is paramount. For contact lens wearers, this should occur before every insertion and removal.
- Disinfect Contact Lenses. Contact lens wearers should either dispose of their daily disposable lenses each evening or regularly disinfect their monthly and two-week or other less frequently replaced custom specialty contact lenses according to manufacturer and eye care professional instructions.
- Disinfect Spectacles and Glasses. Some viruses such as COVID-19 can remain on hard surfaces for hours to days, which can be transferred to spectacles wearers’ fingers and faces. This especially holds true for presbyopes (people generally over the age of 40). Most presbyopes require reading glasses and they may be putting them on and off their face multiple times a day. This age group appears to be among the more vulnerable population for being more seriously affected by COVID-19, as compared with contact lens wearers, who are typically younger.
- Discontinue Lens Wear Only if Sick. Ceasing contact lens wear when sick is advised, consistent with guidance for other types of illness.
- Spectacles are Not Proven to Offer Protection. There is no scientific evidence that wearing spectacles or glasses provide protection against COVID-19 or other viral transmissions.
This joint statement provided a timely, evidence-based factual update to the growing concerns around contact lens wear and COVID-19. It has already been shared widely by global media outlets and other professional organizations.
It should be recognized that the focus on handwashing for contact lens wearers is not a new recommendation in light of COVID-19. The importance of adhering to good hygiene practices is fundamental to maintaining ocular health in anyone who uses contact lenses. What the current global situation has done is to provide an opportunity for a timely reminder of why hand washing is necessary for this group of patients.
Best-practice hand washing advice is currently being shared in relation to helping to control the spread of COVID-19. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization recommend that people clean their hands often to reduce their risk of contracting the virus.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Take away points
What are the key points to remember with regard to COVID-19 and contact lens wearers? Make sure you are aware that there is no evidence to suggest that you cannot continue with safe contact lens wear providing that you are in good health. Practicing proper hand washing techniques before handling lenses and before touching your face or eyes is important for contact lens wearers at all times. Focus on hand hygiene and avoiding facial contact with unwashed hands is clearly elevated at present in relation to COVID-19. Standard advice should already include discontinuing lens wear if feeling unwell, and this is no different in cases of suspected COVID-19.
Drs. Fuerst, Gittins, Lee, Coen and the entire staff at EYEcenter Optometric