Although many things have changed since COVID-19 first made its appearance, the way you care for your contact lenses should remain the same. Simply continue to practice safe care hygiene habits, advises the CDC1, and follow the recommendations of your eye care professional.
But what about contact lens wear? Many people wonder whether they’re taking a risk by continuing to wear their contact lenses each day. The CDC also dispels these concerns, emphasizing “there is no evidence to suggest contact lens wearers are more at risk for acquiring COVID-19 than eyeglass wearers”1. In other words, if you are healthy, you can continue to wear and care for your contact lenses as prescribed by your eye care professional2.
Practice Good Contact Lens Hygiene
Cleaning and disinfecting regimens vary based on the type of contact lenses you wear, but none of the rules or steps have changed since COVID-19 was first discovered. Always begin lens application and removal by making sure you have clean and dry hands, and only handle your lenses over a surface that has been cleaned and disinfected2.
If you wear daily disposable contact lenses, you don’t have to worry about cleaning your contact lenses. Simply throw them away at the end of the day and start with a fresh pair in the morning. On the other hand, if your contact lens replacement schedule is longer than one day, it is essential that you follow the lens care and cleaning routine prescribed by your eye care professional.
What to Do If You Contract COVID-19
If you become ill or suspect you have COVID-19, you should cease contact lens wear and switch to eyeglasses instead4. If you don’t currently have back-up spectacles, call your eye care provider. Although many offices have physically closed during the pandemic, depending on where you live, doctors are still available for essential services—and not having vision-correcting spectacles would apply. You may not even need an appointment to purchase spare eyeglasses if your prescription is on file.
Importantly, throw away any contact lenses that you wore when you were sick, as well as lens cases. You can resume contact lens wear with a new pair of lenses once you’ve fully recovered and consulted with your eye care professional5.
What to Do If You Run Out of Contact Lenses
It’s understandable that stay-at-home orders and office closures can impact wellness visits, regularly scheduled eye care, and contact lens checkups. However, it is still important to maintain communication with your eye care professional. If you are running out of lenses or have a contact lens prescription that is nearing expiration, contact the office right away so they can work with you to ensure you have access to everything you need.
A new peer-reviewed paper published in Contact Lens & Anterior Eye incorporates findings from more than 100 referenced sources in an effort to keep contact lens wearers informed during the global COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic4. Five important facts can be gleaned from the paper and are also available at COVIDEyeFacts.org. To summarize, the authors share the following wisdom5:
1. You can keep wearing contact lenses.
2. Good hygiene habits are critical.
3. Regular eyeglasses do not provide protection.
4. Keep unwashed hands away from your face.
5. If you are ill, temporarily stop wearing your contacts and use your glasses instead.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Protect Your Eyes. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/protect-your-eyes.html. Accessed April 22, 2020.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frequently Asked Questions: Should contact lens wearers take special precautions to prevent COVID-19? Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#how-protect-yourself. Accessed April 22, 2020.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frequently Asked Questions: Is contact lens disinfecting solution effective against COVID-19? Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#how-protect-yourself. Accessed April 22, 2020.
4. Jones L, Walsh K, Willcox M, Morgan P, Nichols J. The COVID-19 pandemic: Important considerations for contact lens practitioners. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 2020 Apr 3. pii: S1367-0484(20)30055-2. doi: 10.1016/j.clae.2020.03.012. [Epub ahead of print]
5. Centre for Ocular Research and Education. COVID-19 and contact lenses: the facts you need to know. Available at COVIDEyeFacts.org. Accessed April 22, 2020.