Data reaffirm contact lenses safe for healthy individuals during COVID-19

Karen Walsh, BSc(Hons), MCOptom, PGDip, FIACLE
Karen Walsh

As questions and mixed information about how to remain safe during the COVID-19 pandemic continue to circle online, the CDC and data from a new peer-reviewed paper by five prominent ocular scientists confirm that healthy individuals can continue to wear contact lenses.

Healio Primary Care Optometry News spoke to co-author Karen Walsh, BSc(Hons), MCOptom, PGDip, FIACLE. Based on the review, the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) developed five facts for eye care providers to share with contact lens wearers.

“The most important point that comes across from our five facts is that, first and foremost, contact lens users, as long as they are healthy, can continue to wear their contact lenses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Walsh told PCON. “We know there is no scientific evidence for them to have an increased risk for contracting COVID-19.”

The facts are:

  • People can keep wearing contact lenses;
  • Good hygiene habits are critical;
  • Regular eyeglasses and spectacles do not provide protection;
  • Keep unwashed hands away from the face; and
  • If you are sick, temporarily stop wearing contact lenses.

“The advice regarding handwashing is ubiquitous for us all, whether we’re talking about vision correction or our general health. We know that from the WHO and the CDC guidelines,” Walsh said. “We should be, all of us, practicing diligent handwashing with soap and water, drying thoroughly after. It is incumbent all of us to do so. For contact lens wearers, at the point that you’re touching your lens, applying and removing it at least twice a day, the normal advice for a contact lens wearer is to only ever do that with clean hands. Their advice is no different during the pandemic; there is only a broader emphasis on it.”

Walsh also emphasized, from the key facts, that if contact wearers feel ill, they should revert to using glasses, speak with their eye care practitioner once they feel well again, and preferably get a new set of lenses.

Her final advice was that doctors keep up-to-date on the most recent facts to reassure patients about safe eye wear practices.

The CDC also issued guidance from the Contact Lens Institute regarding contact lens wear and care that echoed the sentiments from Walsh and her co-authors.

Specifically, the agency stated that contact lens use is safe for healthy individuals, that there is no evidence to suggest an increased risk for COVID-19 compared with wearing glasses, and that contact lens wearers should maintain standard lens wear and care hygiene habits.

“In the weeks since COVID-19 emerged, many have wondered if it’s okay to wear contact lenses,” Rick Weisbarth, OD, FAAO, board chairman of the Contact Lens Institute, said in a press release. “In a time when there is considerable misinformation and rumor, the CDC has now provided clear, straightforward guidance as to how contact lens wearers can continue to wear their lenses safely, including following proper lens hygiene habits.” – by Talitha Bennett

Reference: Jones L, et al. Contact Lens and Anterior Eye. 2020;doi:10.1016/j.clae.2020.03.012.

Disclosures: Walsh reports she is a clinical scientist at CORE. CORE has received research support or lectureship honoraria from Alcon, Allergan, CooperVision, GL Chemtec, iMed Pharma, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Lubris, Menicon, Nature's Way, Novartis, Ote, PS Therapy, Safilens, Santen, Shire, SightGlass and Visioneering. Weisbarth reports he is vice president of professional affairs for Alcon.

Editor's note: Article updated with financial disclosure for Karen Walsh, CORE and RicK Weisbarth.
Karen Walsh, BSc(Hons), MCOptom, PGDip, FIACLE
Karen Walsh

As questions and mixed information about how to remain safe during the COVID-19 pandemic continue to circle online, the CDC and data from a new peer-reviewed paper by five prominent ocular scientists confirm that healthy individuals can continue to wear contact lenses.

Healio Primary Care Optometry News spoke to co-author Karen Walsh, BSc(Hons), MCOptom, PGDip, FIACLE. Based on the review, the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) developed five facts for eye care providers to share with contact lens wearers.

“The most important point that comes across from our five facts is that, first and foremost, contact lens users, as long as they are healthy, can continue to wear their contact lenses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Walsh told PCON. “We know there is no scientific evidence for them to have an increased risk for contracting COVID-19.”

The facts are:

  • People can keep wearing contact lenses;
  • Good hygiene habits are critical;
  • Regular eyeglasses and spectacles do not provide protection;
  • Keep unwashed hands away from the face; and
  • If you are sick, temporarily stop wearing contact lenses.

“The advice regarding handwashing is ubiquitous for us all, whether we’re talking about vision correction or our general health. We know that from the WHO and the CDC guidelines,” Walsh said. “We should be, all of us, practicing diligent handwashing with soap and water, drying thoroughly after. It is incumbent all of us to do so. For contact lens wearers, at the point that you’re touching your lens, applying and removing it at least twice a day, the normal advice for a contact lens wearer is to only ever do that with clean hands. Their advice is no different during the pandemic; there is only a broader emphasis on it.”

Walsh also emphasized, from the key facts, that if contact wearers feel ill, they should revert to using glasses, speak with their eye care practitioner once they feel well again, and preferably get a new set of lenses.

Her final advice was that doctors keep up-to-date on the most recent facts to reassure patients about safe eye wear practices.

The CDC also issued guidance from the Contact Lens Institute regarding contact lens wear and care that echoed the sentiments from Walsh and her co-authors.

Specifically, the agency stated that contact lens use is safe for healthy individuals, that there is no evidence to suggest an increased risk for COVID-19 compared with wearing glasses, and that contact lens wearers should maintain standard lens wear and care hygiene habits.

“In the weeks since COVID-19 emerged, many have wondered if it’s okay to wear contact lenses,” Rick Weisbarth, OD, FAAO, board chairman of the Contact Lens Institute, said in a press release. “In a time when there is considerable misinformation and rumor, the CDC has now provided clear, straightforward guidance as to how contact lens wearers can continue to wear their lenses safely, including following proper lens hygiene habits.” – by Talitha Bennett

Reference: Jones L, et al. Contact Lens and Anterior Eye. 2020;doi:10.1016/j.clae.2020.03.012.

Disclosures: Walsh reports she is a clinical scientist at CORE. CORE has received research support or lectureship honoraria from Alcon, Allergan, CooperVision, GL Chemtec, iMed Pharma, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Lubris, Menicon, Nature's Way, Novartis, Ote, PS Therapy, Safilens, Santen, Shire, SightGlass and Visioneering. Weisbarth reports he is vice president of professional affairs for Alcon.

Editor's note: Article updated with financial disclosure for Karen Walsh, CORE and RicK Weisbarth.

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