Is it Safe to Wear Contact Lenses During the Coronavirus Pandemic?
Settling the confusion on coronavirus concerns for contact lens wearers
- April 6, 2020
Is it safe to wear contact lenses during the COVID-19 pandemic? For patients with keratoconus and those using medically necessary contact lenses, wearing eyeglasses is usually not a viable option to get functional vision. Another 40+ million Americans regularly wear contact lenses as an alternative to glasses.
The short answer is yes — you can continue to wear contact lenses if you are not sick and take precautions which you should already be taking, like proper hand washing, lens cleaning, and disinfection. Authoritative sources support the safety of contact lens wear during COVID-19, including the Centre for Ocular Research & Education and the American Optometric Association. If you wear scleral contact lenses, the Scleral Lens Education Society has deemed scleral lens wear safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, if you take appropriate precautions. These all contradict a spokesperson for an ophthalmology organization who suggested that eyeglasses are safer than contacts during the coronavirus, without providing evidence to back up that notion.
There are two reports – one published in the New England Journal of Medicine and another in the Journal of Medical Virology – that suggest that the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely to involve the eyes. The first study found that just 0.8% of 1099 patients in China who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 had “conjunctival congestion”. This is hardly suggestive that coronavirus causes viral conjunctivitis, but it is nonetheless a possibility. The second study found that out of 30 patients with COVID-19, just one had conjunctivitis and that the tears showed presence of the virus through using reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay. Statistically, this study suggests that the majority with COVID-19 do not experience conjunctivitis.
So far, several media outlets have run stories that make it seem like conjunctivitis is a common finding in COVID-19 and that contact lens wear is inappropriate for healthy individuals amid the pandemic. However, the actual data does not validate these claims. Contact lens wearers can rejoice and continue to wear their lenses according to their eye doctor’s recommendations.