With the COVID-19 virus continuing its spread, doctors of all stripes are looking to advise their patients on preventative measures that will reduce their risk of infection. The top tidbit everyone can embrace is a vigilant hand-washing regimen. This is especially important for patients who wear contact lenses, according to the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE).

The group notes that this is a time of confusion, when contradictory information is common. “Google ‘COVID-19 and contact lens wear’ right now and it is likely that conflicting advice will be offered. Newspaper articles with headlines of, ‘Can you catch coronavirus from your contact lenses?’ and some allied health organizations advising ‘switching to spectacles rather than contact lens wear to limit the number of times the face is touched’ easily raise concern that contact lens wear may not be safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,” CORE says in a recently published editorial.

Its latest publication seeks to address some of this confusion. “Despite myths and misinformation that have arisen in recent reports, contact lens wear remains safe,” CORE says in a joint statement from three global contact lens experts.

When in Contacts

These experts—Lyndon Jones, PhD, DSc, FCOptom, Philip Morgan, BSc, PhD, MCOptom and Jason Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD—add that the vigilant hand-washing techniques being recommended are especially important for contact lens patients. “When using contact lenses or spectacles, careful and thorough hand washing 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,” the report reads.

“We understand the relevance of good hand-washing practices for everyone in the current climate of COVID-19,” Dr. Jones said in the statement, “beyond the current heightened focus, it is also prudent to remind contact lens wearers of their ongoing need to conduct good hand hygiene prior to touching their lenses and eyes.”

Additionally, the doctors emphasize patients “either dispose of their daily disposable lenses each evening, or regularly disinfect their monthly and two-week lenses.”

When in Spectacles

While one COVID-19–related myth suggests that contact lenses aren’t safe, another suggests that spectacles are a way to dodge the infection. However, frames and lenses that don’t touch the eye aren’t necessarily free of transmission risk. The virus can remain on hard surfaces for hours to days and can be transferred to spectacle wearers’ fingers, faces or just from sitting around on other unclean surfaces. “This especially holds true for presbyopes,” the clinicians explain. “Most presbyopes require reading glasses and they may be putting them on and off their face multiple times a day.”

More details from CORE’s statement can be found at its free online publication, Contact Lens Update.           

Cope. COVID-19 and contact lens wear: what do eye care practitioners and patients need to know? Contact Lens Update. March 16, 2020. Accessed March 17, 2020.