Apr 29, 2020 10:45 AM

This information was accurate at the time of publication. Due to the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, some information may have changed since the original publication date. 

The question of whether contact lens wearers touch their eyes more and might be at higher risk of coronavirus infection sparked concerns early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently put those concerns to rest, saying there’s no evidence to suggest contact lens wearers are more at risk than eyeglass wearers.

We asked John A. Moran Eye Center specialist David Meyer, OD, for facts and tips that should ease the minds of contact lens and eyeglass wearers alike.

"If you are careful, wash your hands well, don’t touch your face, and practice good contact lens and eyeglasses hygiene, that should keep you as safe as possible from infection," said Meyer, Moran's director of contact lens services.

What is the connection between COVID-19 and our eyes?

When a sick person coughs, sneezes, or talks, they can release virus droplets from their mouth, right into another person’s face.

Although you’re most likely to inhale these droplets through mucous membranes in your mouth or nose, they can also enter through the membranes protecting your eyes.

That means the virus can also spread if someone touches the droplets and then rubs their eyes or rubs an infected eye and then touches someone else.

How does the spread of COVID-19 relate to contact lens wearers?

In early March, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) suggested temporarily switching to glasses from contacts to decrease eye and hand contact.

Although the AAO experts said there was no evidence wearing contact lenses increased the chance of getting COVID-19, they said that people who wear contacts might touch their faces more than the average person. That part of the AAO statement may have opened the door to some misconceptions.

Do you think contact lens-wearers face a higher risk of coronavirus because they may touch their eyes more frequently than most?

If you touch your face more frequently, there is a higher risk for coronavirus, but I don’t know of any scientific study showing that contact lens wearers touch their faces more than glasses wearers.

What are you telling your patients when they ask about contact lenses and COVID-19 risks?

I would say if you feel uncomfortable wearing contact lenses during COVID-19, then by all means, please stop wearing them. However, if you practice very good hand and contact lens hygiene, there is no evidence that you have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

How easy or difficult is it for someone to switch to eyeglasses from contact lenses?

Most patients can usually switch to eyeglasses without much of a problem, but some may not have a backup pair of glasses.

If your vision is poor without contact lenses and you have no backup glasses, I would recommend you continue wearing contact lenses while practicing good hygiene, or contact your care provider and work something out. Most practitioners are very aware of their patients’ specific needs.

Any special tips if people can only wear contact lenses?

  • Wear daily disposable contact lenses, if possible.
  • If you have a current prescription, you can order replacement lenses online.
  • Replace your contact lens case with a brand new one. If that is not possible, clean your contact lens case thoroughly.
  • Consider switching to a hydrogen-peroxide based contact lens cleaning solution.
  • Discontinue wearing contact lenses if you are sick with any symptoms.
  • Do not over-wear your contact lenses–wear them only as directed by your eye doctor. If your contact lenses or prescription is expired, contact your eye doctor.
  • Use fresh solution every night to soak your contact lenses–don’t “top off” the solution.

If you wear eyeglasses, clean them daily and periodically wash them in hot, soapy water—especially if you touch them a lot.


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