Understandably, the global COVID-19 pandemic is the major topic on TV, in newspapers, on people’s minds and in our daily conversations. As we try to make sense of it, countless questions are being asked and the answers come from a variety of sources and are often conflicting. Some of these questions relate to the eyes. Will COVID-19 affect my eyes? Will wearing glasses protect me from contracting the virus? Should I stop wearing contact lenses?
WILL COVID-19 AFFECT MY EYES?
Conjunctivitis (“pink eye”) has been found to occur in 1-3% of people with COVID-19. Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the transparent membrane covering the eye. It is characterised by red itchy eyes, accompanied by a watery or yellow discharge. It is contagious but is generally self-limiting with no long-term consequences for the eyes or vision. If you do have the symptoms of conjunctivitis contact your optometrist.
There is no evidence to suggest that wearing glasses or sunglasses offers protection in areas where there may be exposure to the coronavirus. To some extent they could decrease the number of times we touch our eyes, one of the suggestions to limit the spread of the virus.
Just like washing our hands regularly with soap and water, it is essential to clean our glasses thoroughly and dry them with a clean cloth. Make sure that your glasses case is clean and even sanitised. If using an antibacterial sanitiser to wash your hands, it can be used on the temples and bridge of glasses but avoid contact with the lenses.
Older people are a vulnerable group, and they may be putting on and taking off reading glasses frequently during the day, touching their faces each time, particularly whilst doing shopping. They should ensure that their hands and glasses are clean and sanitized when they get home.
It is not necessary to stop wearing contact lenses during this time. Although not a new recommendation, wash your hands carefully before inserting and removing your lenses. The importance of adhering to good hygiene practices is fundamental to maintaining eye health. Diligently follow the instructions given by your optometrist.
Soap and water is the preferred option when washing your hands, although an antibacterial hand sanitiser can be used. The problem with hand sanitiser is that the alcohol could get into your eyes via the lenses and lead to discomfort.
Daily disposable contact lenses should be disposed of every evening as usual. Weekly or monthly lenses should be disinfected regularly as per your optometrist’s directions.
If you have dry eyes and use artificial tears or other eye drops, continue using them, again ensuring that your hands are thoroughly washed before inserting the drops. Stopping their use could increase irritation of your eyes, causing you to rub or wipe them more frequently which is contrary to the instruction not to touch the face or eyes.
STAY SAFE. STAY WELL. LET’S FLATTEN THE CURVE TOGETHER.