Local, News, Ophthalmology, Optometry, Research

Study dispels myths surrounding coronavirus and contact lens wear

An Australian professor has co-authored a new study addressing misinformation related to COVID-19 and contact lens wear, stating there is no evidence to suggest an increased risk compared with spectacle wear.

Mark Willcox, UNSW.

The advice comes as eyecare providers across Australia and other countries reduce their level of service, further highlighting the importance scrupulous contact lens hygiene in order to minimise the risk of complications and, therefore, the need to leave isolation in search of care.

Professor Mark Willcox, from the University of New South Wales, and four other academics from around the world penned the study ‘The COVID-19 pandemic: Important considerations for contact lens practitioners’, which was published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye on 6 April.

In their work, Willcox, whose expertise includes ocular microbiology and ocular inflammation and infection, and his peers acknowledged the significant amounts of misinformation and speculation being reported and shared via various news outlets and on social media relating to how best to limit the chance of infection.

“Among these, recent rumours have circulated stating that contact lens wear is unsafe, that wearers of contact lenses are more at risk of developing COVID-19, that certain contact lens materials are more ‘risky’ than others and that contact lens wearers should immediately revert to spectacle wear to protect themselves,” the authors note.

Willcox and his peers, including Dr Lyndon Jones from the University of Waterloo and Professor Philip Morgan from the University of Manchester, have dispelled the rumours, asserting there no evidence to suggest that contact lens wearers who are asymptomatic should cease wear due to an increased risk of developing COVID-19.

They also noted there was no evidence that wearing prescription spectacles provides protection against the virus or that any one form of contact lens material is more likely to enhance or reduce the risk of future infection.

“Practitioners must remain vigilant about reminding contact lens wearers of the need to maintain good hand hygiene practices when handling lenses,” they said.

“A focus on fully compliant contact lens wear and especially on the modifiable risk factors associated with contact lens complications are especially important during the height of the pandemic, where access to primary and secondary optometric care may be substantially different to normal.

“Practitioners should act to minimise the burden on the wider healthcare system by considering their local clinical pathway options.”

The authors state that patients must be reminded of the need to dispose of daily disposable lenses upon removal, the need for appropriate disinfection with reusable lenses, including the use of a rub-and-rinse step where indicated, and appropriate case cleaning and replacement.

In concluding, the authors note one exception to their findings; contact lens wearers with active COVID-19 should discontinue wearing their contact lenses.

“This is the time to cease contact lens wear and revert to spectacles,” they said.