Coronavirus: Eye doctors suggest people switch from contact lenses to glasses to prevent Covid-19

Experts suggest 'smart thing to do' is switch contacts for glasses as more effective way to block air droplets

Alex Woodward
New York
Thursday 26 March 2020 17:55 GMT
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Doctors are recommending people who wear contact lenses to switch to glasses to avoid transmitting coronavirus through the eyes.

Some reports suggest that the virus can cause a mild form of viral pink eye, or conjunctivitis, that's indistinguishable from other causes of infection.

Dr Sonal Tuli with the American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that substituting glasses for lenses can "decrease irritation and force you to pause before touching your eye" and potentially prevent contaminated fingers from entering the eye.

Wearing glasses may also be a more effective way to prevent infected droplets in the air from entering the eye.

Health officials have stressed frequent hand-washing with soap and warm water and avoiding touching one's face are among the best defences against Covid-19 transmission.

Though it's rarely reported in confirmed cases, doctors have reported some patients hospitalised with the virus had red eye and conjunctivitis, among their other symptoms.

Patients with conjunctivitis symptoms who also have a fever, respiratory symptoms, shortness or breath and other symptoms linked with Covid-19 "could represent" cases of the virus, according to the Academy.

Some patients have presented themselves to eye clinics and emergency departments with eye issues, which "increases the likelihood ophthalmologists may be the first providers to evaluate patients possibly infected" with the virus, the Academy says.

The Journal of Medical Virology determined that the virus "can infect the conjunctiva and cause conjunctivitis, and virus particles are present in ocular secretions" based on some cases in China.

Doctors recommend people caring for others infected with the virus to not just cover their mouth and nose but also their eyes, with safety goggles and other protective eyewear.

Dr Kirby Redman, an optometrist in Wisconsin, told a local NBC affiliate that "the smart thing to do is just avoid wearing contacts" when possible.

He said: "The reason I say that is if you get conjunctivitis from either bacterial or other viruses, which would be much more likely, and you come in with a red eye, that is going to raise concern."

Lucy Wilson, an emergency health services professor at the University of Maryland, explained that glasses offer a "barrier protection against splashes or droplets" that can carry the virus, she told the Huffington Post. "Mucous membranes, including in the eye area, are a common way the coronavirus can enter the body."

People who continue to wear contact lenses should follow proper cleaning routines.

Glasses-wearers should also avoid direct contact with their spectacles (use a tissue) and should wash them with soap and water.

Dr Tuli said: "It's important to remember that although there is a lot of concern about coronavirus, common sense precautions can significantly reduce your risk of getting infected. So wash your hands a lot, follow good contact lens hygiene and avoid touching or rubbing your nose, mouth and especially your eyes.

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