A reader wrote to ask me if it was safe to wear contact lenses during the Covid-19 crisis. I thought it would be useful to broaden the discussion.
As surgeon Julian Stevens of Moorfields Eye Hospital says, coronavirus means new rules for lens wearers.
Recently the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommended that contact lens wearers should return to wearing glasses at this time. There are a number of good reasons for this.
Contact lens wearers touch their face more than non-contact lens wearers which runs counter to the advice we’re being given to avoid touching the face, especially the mouth, nose and eyes.
If you have Covid-19 virus on your hands and then touch your eyes, you can potentially cause infection with the virus through your nose.
Tears drain into the upper part of the nose unloading the virus on to the lining where it can gain easy entry into the body and cause infection.
The eyes are touched by contact lens wearers when they insert and remove lenses, and are rubbed when there’s discomfort or irritation. Glasses create a barrier to hand-eye contact and so mean less temptation to touch the eyes.
It can be hard to stop touching or rubbing your eyes when working for long periods using screens at home and work which limits blinking, and this leads to dry eyes.
It’s worse with contact lens wearers, and Mr Stevens recommends using preservative-free artificial tear drops which can be bought online or at a pharmacy. Wash your hands before putting in any drops and before you handle contact lenses.
Though rare, Covid-19 can cause conjunctivitis as part of the viral infection. If your eyes are sore, pink and producing a lot of tears you shouldn’t wear your contact lenses.
If at all possible avoid wearing contact lenses, but if you must wear them then take extra care, washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds after inserting or removing your lenses.
You might also consider changing to daily disposable lenses as they’re lower risk then extended-wear lenses.
For those using hard lenses there can be no alternative if you don’t wish to wear glasses.