Study Dispels Misinformation on Contact Lens, Spectacle Use and COVID-19

April 15, 2020
Gianna Melillo
Gianna Melillo

Gianna is an assistant editor of The American Journal of Managed Care® (AJMC®). She has been working on AJMC® since 2019 and has a BA in philosophy and journalism & professional writing from The College of New Jersey.

In a new study published in Contact Lens & Anterior Eye, ocular scientists offer guidance for practitioners about contact lens and spectacle use during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a new study published in Contact Lens & Anterior Eye, ocular scientists offer guidance for practitioners about the use of contact lens and spectacle use during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Currently, there is no evidence suggesting individuals face an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 through contact lens (CL) wear compared with spectacle lens wear. In addition, there is no scientific evidence that shows wearing standard prescription spectacles provides protection against COVID-19 or other viral transmissions, researchers said.

However, due to social distancing measures, regular access to eyecare may be restricted. Specialists recommend CL users continue appropriate hand washing and drying before applying lenses. “Patients should also avoid touching their face, including their eyes, nose and mouth, with unwashed hands and avoid CL wear altogether if unwell (particularly with any cold or flu-like symptoms).”

Contact lens wearers ought to regularly disinfect monthly or 2-week lenses or consider switching to disposable daily lenses, as “the use of daily disposable contact lenses substantially reduces the risks of many inflammatory complications.”

Although there have been reports of potential eye transmission of COVID-19, frequency of conjunctivitis (pink eye) in patients with COVID-19 is less than 3%. Researchers also note it is still unknown as to whether COVID-19 can occur through conjunctival exposure.

For individuals who wear contacts or glasses/spectacles, the authors advised, based on their findings:

  • Individuals can continue wearing contact lenses
  • Good hygiene habits are key
  • Regular eyeglasses and spectacles do not protect against the virus
  • Unwashed hands should stay away from the face
  • Temporarily stop wearing contact lenses if you are sick

According to authors, younger individuals often practice more ‘risky’ behaviors (such as not observing social distancing, as seen recently during spring break in the United States) when compared with older counterparts. Young people are also more likely to use contact lenses. These 2 factors combined pose and “inherent increased risk” for COVID-19 infection.

Because of this, “it remains important to remind this age group of the role of hand hygiene in preventing both ocular and systemic infection, regardless of their mode of vision correction.”

Researchers also advise individuals with COVID-19 should refrain from using contact lenses. If a patient develops the disease, “any contact lenses that were being worn at that time should be immediately disposed of as should any remaining disinfecting solutions and contact lens cases that the patient possesses.”

As the pandemic evolves, continued investigations into the interaction between COVID-19, the ocular surface, and contact lenses should take place. Studies on both the ability of contact lens disinfecting systems to kill the virus and how the virus interacts with different contact lens materials will be instrumental.

“Practitioners must remain vigilant about reminding contact lens wearers of the need to maintain good hand hygiene practices when handling lenses,” authors conclude. “practitioners should act to minimize the burden on the wider healthcare system by considering their local clinical pathway options.

In addition, on April 8, the CDC released updated guidance on contact lens wear.

Reference

Jones L, Walsh K, Wilcox M, et al. The COVID-19 pandemic: Important considerations for contact lens practitioners [published online April 3, 2020]. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. Doi: 10.1016/j.clae.2020.03.012.