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Keeping Your Eyes Safe during The Coronavirus Pandemic

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands to help prevent spreading germs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But what about those who wear prescription contacts and glasses? Are there added risks to touching your eyes during a pandemic like COVID-19? Here, from ophthalmologists and optometrists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, are some answers to help you.

Is it unsafe for people who wear contacts to continue doing so during COVID-19?

According to the CDC, there is no evidence to suggest contact lens wearers are more at risk for acquiring COVID-19 than are eyeglass wearers. “A major mode of transmission of the virus is through touching one’s face with contaminated hands,” said Priscilla Fowler, M.D., director of Cornea Service at Callahan Eye Hospital and assistant professor with the UAB Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. “Technically, with good handwashing and hygiene techniques, there should be no increased risk of contracting the virus through contact lens wear. However, this also assumes that patients employ good contact lens hygiene, including proper contact lens disinfection and refraining from contact lens over-wear.”

People with ongoing care for conditions such as macular degeneration should not necessarily forgo their care.

If I am sick, should I wear my contacts?

UAB School of Optometry Professor and Associate Vice President for Research Jason Nichols, O.D., Ph.D., says contact lens wearers who are ill should temporarily revert to wearing glasses, which minimizes the opportunity for direct contact with your eye.“You can resume use with fresh, new contact lenses and lens cases once you return to full health,” he said.

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Is there any indication that COVID-19 can be transmitted through one’s eyes?

“Currently, there is no definitive evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through contact with tear fluid from the eyes,” Fowler said. “There are reports in the literature of the COVID-19 virus’s being detected in the tears of patients with conjunctivitis associated with the illness, but this has not been directly linked to transmission of the virus.”

Should people who have eye conditions wait to see their optometrist or ophthalmologist until things get back to normal?

Both Fowler and Nichols recommend that patients who have a sight-threatening condition such as glaucoma or macular degeneration that needs ongoing treatment should not necessarily forgo their treatment due to current restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

“Hospitals and doctors’ offices are taking extreme precautions to protect their patients and staff from contracting COVID-19, so that they can continue to take care of their patients who need them,” Fowler said. “You should contact your eye care provider if you have an upcoming appointment to determine if you need to proceed with the appointment or reschedule to a later time.”

 

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