Contact lenses can be worn safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is evident that contact lens wear remains a highly effective form of vision correction for millions of people worldwide and, for many, the only viable path to functional vision. Certainly, it is understandable that individuals who depend on their contact lens correction to function visually in their everyday life are concerned about whether contact lenses should be worn during this time. However, there is no scientific evidence at this time indicating that wearing contact lenses increases the risk of contracting COVID-19.
The virus is primarily transmitted by being in close proximity to an affected individual who coughs or sneezes and inhaling the resulting droplets. As such, the importance of social distancing cannot be sufficiently emphasized.
The predominant ocular finding, occurring in between 3 - 30% of infected individuals, is conjunctivitis (i.e., "pink eye"). However, studies have found that there is very little evidence that COVID-19 is present in the tears, which indicates that while touching the eyes can represent a possible factor in transmission, but it is a fairly weak factor of transmission.
There are, however, several factors that are important in minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission while wearing contact lenses which have been recommended by numerous sources.
These include the following:1. The Importance of Proper Hand Washing
Touching the eyes can represent a factor involved in COVID-19 transmission only if the hands were not washed thoroughly prior to handling the lenses. Prior to the current pandemic, it has been reported that poor hand hygiene is a risk factor in developing sight-threatening conditions such as microbial keratitis (i.e., "corneal ulcer") and corneal inflammatory events in contact lens wearers.7 Therefore, eye care professionals have always emphasized that the hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and water for, at minimum, 20 seconds, and dried with an unused paper towel.
2. Proper Contact Lens Care.
Individuals wearing daily disposable lenses should discard their lenses after every use. Lenses that are worn on a two-week, monthly, or longer replacement schedule should be cleaned and disinfected as recommended by the prescribing eye care professional. Likewise, for individuals not disposing of their lenses daily, care solution bottles and storage cases should be discarded, at minimum, every month and good case hygiene should be performed. This includes emptying out old solution nightly, never topping off old solution with fresh solution, as well as cleaning and wiping the case dry every day.
3. Discontinue Contact Lens
Wear if Ill
As is consistent with other types of illness, anyone who feels ill with cold or flu-like symptoms should discontinue contact lens wear during this time period.