Research has shown that some influenza viruses and the common cold can infect a person by way of the eyes, but what about COVID-19? The studies are limited and right now, there is no definitive evidence that the virus can be transmitted through the eye by infected respiratory droplets or contaminated hands touching your eyes, but experts and health researchers agree that biologically speaking, it could be possible. For your overall health and the health of your eyes, always follow good eye hygiene.
Can Glasses Help Protect You from COVID-19 or Other Viruses?
Just to be cautious, some experts recommend that people who wear contact lenses should limit their use or discontinue wearing them during the pandemic. While there is no evidence that wearing contact lenses increases your chances of contracting COVID-19, contact lens wearers tend to touch or rub their eyes more often than people who wear glasses, especially if those wearers are experiencing eye irritation or dryness while wearing their contact lenses. Wearing glasses can help limit eye irritation and reduce the number of times you touch your eyes by serving as a physical barrier.
When your eye itches, wearing glasses can be a reminder to practice correct hygiene before touching your eye. It is not clear if COVID-19 can enter the body through the eye, but it is known that cold and flu viruses can, and it is that season again! Because of this, it doesn’t hurt to discontinue wearing your contact lenses or wearing your glasses more often. Contact lenses cover about 30-40% of the ocular surface and wearing glasses would give you more protection from respiratory droplets as well as dirt and debris entering your eye.
Wearing glasses does not give you 100% protection of course, because they are open on the top, bottom, and sides of your eyes, but it is better than nothing. If you are wearing glasses, remember they need to be kept clean and sanitized as well because you are constantly touching your glasses with your hands to adjust them on your face or taking them on or off and putting them down on surfaces that could be contaminated. If you are caring for a person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or you think they could have been in contact with the virus, to be safe, you should wear wrap-around eye protection or goggles while caring for that person.
Don’t Forget to Practice Proper ‘Eye’giene
You should never touch or rub your eye directly without having washed your hands first in warm water and soap for 20 seconds and dried them completely with a clean towel or an air dryer. If this method is not available, using hand sanitizer will work, but be sure to use enough sanitizer to completely cover your hands and let it dry thoroughly before touching or rubbing your eye. Sometimes neither option is possible, or your eye really itches right now! Grab a fresh tissue and use it to rub your eye, taking care not to get small particles from the tissue into your eye which might cause further irritation. It is not recommended to use a shirt tail or sleeve, other article of clothing, or a lens cleaning cloth in place of a tissue. Items of clothing and lens cloths can pick up chemicals, dirt, and other contaminants.
How to Keep Your Contact Lenses Clean & Disinfected
If you are a contact lens wearer, be sure to always use proper methods for cleaning and storing your lenses regardless of the pandemic or if it is cold and flu season. Follow the steps below to ensure you are using proper contact lens hygiene.
- Wash your hands in warm water and soap for 20 seconds and dry them thoroughly with a lint-free towel before handling your lenses.
- Read the packaging and any inserts that came with your contact lens solution for instructions about lens cleaning and follow the manufacturer’s recommended procedure.
- After you have removed the first lens, place it in the palm of your hand. Apply multi-purpose contact lens solution and rub the lens for about 20 seconds on each side, or for the recommended amount of time from the solution manufacturer. Do not skip this step even if the solution is labeled “no-rub”.
- Next, rinse your lens thoroughly. Check the solution manufacturer’s instructions on how long you should rinse the lens. A good rule of thumb is 10 seconds of rinse time on each side. Never use tap water, sterilized water, eye drops, or homemade saline solution to rinse your lenses.
- Place the lens into a clean, dry lens case and then fill the trough of the case with the contact lens solution so that the lens is completely covered.
- Repeat the steps above with the remaining lens.
- Soak the lenses in the multi-purpose solution for four to eight hours or per the manufacturer’s recommended soaking time. Never store contact lenses in tap or sterile water.
There are many types of contact lens solutions; the one best for you and your lenses can depend on the type of lens you are using, if you suffer from allergies, or if your eyes tend to form protein deposits. During your contact lens exam, ask your optometrist for a recommendation on the solution you should use.
If you store your lenses in the case for a while, read your instructions to see if you should disinfect them again before wearing them. Always re-disinfect your lenses prior to wearing them if they have been stored for 30 days or longer.
Remember contact lenses can warp over time and your cornea shape can change. To make sure your lenses fit properly, your prescription is correct, and your eyes are healthy enough for contact lenses, see your optometrist regularly. Schedule an appointment immediately if any irritation, itching, redness, or soreness develops in your eyes and always have a pair of back-up glasses for emergencies.
Care for your Contact Lens Case
Keep your contact lens case clean by rinsing it with a sterile contact lens solution in the morning. Leave it open and allow it to air dry before reuse. Do not rinse your case in tap water. Dispose of your contact lens case every one to three months or immediately if it gets cracked or damaged. Overuse of a case can result in eye infections due to bacterial contamination.
Other Important Contact Lens Tips
- Make sure you keep to the schedule your optometrist gives you for wearing and replacing your lenses.
- Do not use saline solution or rewetting drops to clean or store your lenses. These types of solutions are not disinfectants.
- When storing lenses, use new solution each time you clean and disinfect your contact lenses. Never reuse or top off old solution.
- Do not pour contact lens solution into a different bottle. The solution will no longer be sterile.
- Make sure the tip of the solution bottle does not touch any surface. Keep the bottle tightly closed when you are not using it.
- Keep contact lens-safe moisturizing drops with you in case of eye irritation and keep a pair of back-up glasses.
Have an Eye Care Emergency Kit
If you wear contact lenses, it is a good idea to keep an “Eye Care Emergency Kit” with you. Include hand sanitizer and medical gloves, facial tissues, and moisturizing eye drops. Make sure the eye drops are approved for use with contact lenses. In case you need to remove your contacts, include an extra contact lens case and travel-sized bottle of contact lens solution and your back-up glasses, along with individually wrapped lens wipes. Don’t forget to check the expiration date on the solution and eye drops from time to time to make sure they have not expired.
The Bottom Line
Until further studies are done, we will not know for sure if the coronavirus can infect a person by being transmitted through the eyes. Currently, experts believe the eye is probably the least likely entry point into your body for the coronavirus; not that it cannot happen, but it is more likely the virus will infect a person through the nose and mouth. Wearing your glasses as a layer of protection from infection, dust, and debris is a good idea, but there is no reason not to continue wearing contact lenses if that is more comfortable for you as long as you follow proper contact lens hygiene. Regardless if you wear glasses, contact lenses, or neither, continually practice good eye hygiene and avoid touching your eyes and face.
If you have any additional questions about how to care for your eyes during COVID-19, please contact us and we’d be happy to help!