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COVID-19: Dispelling myths around contact lens wear

Three of the world’s most published researchers are urging scrupulous contact lens hygiene amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and have warned of the potential for virus transmission among the presbyope population via spectacles.

Dr Lyndon Jones, director of the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) at the University of Waterloo, Professor Philip Morgan, director of Eurolens Research at The University of Manchester and Dr Jason Nichols, associate vice president of research and Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry have advised eyecare professionals and consumers to listen to sound, evidence-based practices.

In an article published on the CORE website, they have responded to “myths and misinformation” arising from the outbreak, with the key message that contact lens wear remains a safe and highly effective form of vision correction.

“When using contact lenses or spectacles, careful and thorough hand washing with soap and water followed by hand drying with unused paper towels is paramount. For contact lens wearers, this should occur before every insertion and removal,” they said.

For ill patients, the trio advised ceasing contact lens wear, which is consistent with guidance for other types of illness.

Healthy patients should either dispose of their daily disposable lenses each evening, or regularly disinfect their monthly and two-week lenses according to manufacturer and eyecare professional instructions.

With regard to spectacles, they said some viruses such as COVID-19 can remain on hard surfaces for hours to days, which can be transferred to spectacles wearers’ fingers and faces.

“This especially holds true for presbyopes (people generally over the age of 40). Most presbyopes require reading glasses and they may be putting them on and off their face multiple times a day,” the researchers said.

“This age group appears to be among the more vulnerable population for developing COVID-19, as compared with contact lens wearers, who are typically younger.”

They advised there is also no scientific evidence that wearing spectacles or glasses provide protection against COVID-19 or other viral transmissions.

A recent peer-reviewed paper published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye draws attention to how hand washing habits could affect the development of contact lens related microbial keratitis and corneal inflammatory events.