Contact Lens Wearers at No Greater Risk From COVID-19 Than Those Sporting Glasses

By Linda Carroll

April 15, 2020

(Reuters Health) - Contact lenses are not likely to raise the risk of contracting COVID-19, a new paper suggests.

And contrary to popular belief, glasses may offer little protection from the virus, according to the review article published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye.

"When you look through the scientific literature, there is currently no evidence to support any concerns about contact lens wearers: they are no more at risk than those who wear spectacles or those who aren't wearing anything," said lead author Lyndon Jones, a professor at the school of optometry and vision science and director of the Center for Ocular Research at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

Jones emphasized, however, that it's more important now than ever to follow good contact lens hygiene. "It is always important to wash and dry your hands before touching your contact lenses," Jones said. "Everyone should be much more aware of that now. Another thing we want to get across is that it's very important you don't touch your face with unwashed hands."

One possible caveat to the overall safety finding is that no one knows whether contact lens wearers touch their faces more than others.

The researchers also point out that it's rare to find the virus in people's tears, so infection through the eyes is probably much less common than infection through the respiratory system.

Jones and his colleagues emphasized that prescription glasses don't protect the eyes much. "Some people may have a false sense of security thinking that spectacles provide a barrier," he said. "But they are nothing like the protection you get from PPEs."

Because spectacle wearers touch their glasses often, the researchers advise those who wear glasses to wash them regularly with soap and water.

The topic is one that many may be wondering about, said Laura Di Meglio, an optometrist and instructor at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

"A lot of my friends have come to me asking for my opinion on it," Di Meglio said. "I think (the authors) did a great job of going through the science behind the virus. In my opinion, if you're practicing good contact lens hygiene in general, I don't think there's an increased risk of COVID."

Another reason to practice good contact lens hygiene is to reduce the risk of any kind of infection, Di Meglio said. "The last thing you want is to wake up with an eye infection because you slept in your contact lenses and now you have to leave the house because of it," she added.

The bottom line, said Dr. Angie Wen, "is it's so important to have good hand hygiene when you're taking care of your contact lenses, and to change them as indicated by the manufacturer and to dispose of them daily if they are daily lenses."

Contact lens wearers should also be aware that even though some lenses are approved for overnight use, there is a higher rate of infections in those who sleep with their lenses in, she said.

Wen also cautions against wearing lenses during a viral infection, even the common cold. "Adenoviruses are the number one reason for pink eye," she said. "If you are sick with any kind of respiratory illness you should not be wearing contacts."

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/3elQ4wb Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, online April 6, 2020.

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