Contact Lenses and COVID-19: Myths and Facts
Over the past few weeks, several media outlets around the world have been suggesting that contact lenses should not be worn during the COVID-19 pandemic. But where are the experts on this issue? The most recent studies demystify the topic and confirm that contact lenses are safe to wear, as long as they are handled with care.
Choosing glasses over contact lenses?
Various journalistic articles have alerted the public by recommending the use of glasses instead of contact lenses during the current crisis. The explanation behind this advice is simple: it is assumed that the use of contact lenses would result in frequent contact between the hands and eyes. Since such contact would increase the risks of contracting COVID-19, especially if hand hygiene guidelines are not followed, it would be best to avoid it as much as possible.
That said, leading experts have a more nuanced opinion. Doctors Lyndon Jones (director of the Centre for Ocular Research & Education at the University of Waterloo), Philip Morgan (director of Eurolens Research at the University of Manchester) and Jason J. Nichols (researcher and professor at the University of Alabama School of Optometry in Birmingham) believe that contact lenses do not constitute a real danger to the wearer, as long as they are handled with care.
In a collaborative statement, the three eminent researchers outlined some key facts to remember about contact lenses, eyeglasses and their relationship to COVID-19.
- Contact lenses are safe to wear. Concerns about contact lenses are unfounded, and they remain a highly effective and safe vision correction tool around the world.
- Hand-washing is essential. Before handling contact lenses or glasses, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and dry them with paper towels or a clean cloth. It is imperative that this process be repeated with each application and removal of contact lenses, in both pandemic and non-pandemic situations.
- Contact lenses should be properly cared for. Disposable lenses should be discarded at the end of each day, while monthly or bimonthly lenses should be cleaned daily, following the manufacturers’ and eye care professionals’ instructions. Lens cases should also be thoroughly rinsed and cleaned with your lens care solution and replaced every three months or so. Finally, it is important to change the contact lens solution every day and to never reuse the previous day’s solution. Disinfection solutions based on hydrogen peroxide offer optimal results.
- A sick person should stop wearing contact lenses. Following the recommendations, anyone who is ill should stop wearing contact lenses. This guideline also applies to diseases other than COVID-19. However, the risk of transmission of an infectious disease through tears is very low.
- Glasses are not a proven protective measure. There is no scientific evidence to demonstrate that wearing glasses offers protection against the transmission of COVID-19 or other viral diseases. To the contrary, the coronavirus can infect a pair of glasses and survive up to nine days on the frame or up to five days on the silicone nose pads.
- For this reason, both the lenses and the frames of the glasses must be disinfected. Since the coronavirus can survive on hard surfaces for several days, it can contaminate a pair of glasses and be transferred to the fingers and face of the wearer. People with presbyopia are particularly affected by this situation: since they use reading glasses that they put on and take off regularly depending on their activities, the risk of coronavirus being transferred from hands to frames (and vice versa) is increased. In addition, presbyopia generally affects people who are at least 40 years old, for whom the risk of COVID-19 is greater than for contact lenses wearers, who are usually younger.
Eye care specialists are therefore in no doubt that contact lenses can be worn without fear during the COVID-19 crisis, as long as the personal hygiene and lens care measures recommended by the experts are followed. For more information on COVID-19 and the health recommendations issued by the authorities, please visit the websites of the World Health Organization.