Should contact lens wearers take special precautions to avoid getting COVID-19?

Health & Wellness Infection and Spread

A: There is no evidence that the 45 million contact lens wearers in the US are at greater risk of getting COVID-19 than eyeglass wearers.

Because the virus that causes COVID-19 is spread from person-to-person by respiratory droplets, there is little risk of spreading it by touching your eyes.

The likelihood of getting COVID-19 by wearing contact lenses is low. There are risks of other infections like microbial keratitis and damage to the eye if contacts are not used and cleaned properly. We are far from the days of boiling contact lenses in their cases to disinfect them.

So, let’s review the best practices to care for your lenses.

1. Water and contact lenses should never be mixed.

–Whether swimming or bathing, protect your lenses from damage. Soft contact lenses will swell in the presence of water. This can cause the lens to scratch or tear your cornea, the clear part of the eye upon which the contact lens rests.

–Water is not sterile. An ameba called Acathamoeba is commonly found in tap, well, and lake water. It can cause keratitis (an infection of the cornea) that is painful and difficult to treat. It can take a year to recover from this disorder. Complications can lead to corneal transplant or blindness.

–It is best to discard or disinfect lenses that come in contact with water.

2. Don’t sleep in your contact lenses unless they are designed for such use. The risk of eye infection is 8x greater if you sleep with them in.

3. Wash your hands before handling lenses. The use of soap and water is key to removing debris and germs from your hands. Washing for 20 seconds will decrease the risk of dirt and germs sticking to your lenses. See my previous post about hand washing.

4. Properly clean your lenses and case. Use disinfectant solution. Never top-off the solution in your case. Simply replace all of the fluid with fresh solution. Clean your contact lens case with disinfectant solution—never water. Replace your lens case every 3 months.

By following these basic tips, you can enjoy the use of contact lenses with minimal risk of infection or damage to your eyes.

Kellogg Eye Center on Contact Lenses

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