See Brinton Vision’s full article on COVID-19 Recommendations for Contact Lens Wearers.
Dr. Jason Brinton: What we commonly call conjunctivitis or pink eye can be caused by a number of sources, the common cold, the seasonal flu, and a variety of viruses including the 2019 novel coronavirus. I was consulted on a patient just this last week who had pink eye symptoms and was doing just fine. Otherwise, the patient consulted their eye doctor and by telehealth was evaluated, they recommended that they take artificial teardrops and then three days later the patient awakened with fever, shortness of breath, and a cough and was diagnosed as COVID-19. It’s estimated that one to 3% of coronavirus cases involve conjunctivitis or pink eye. Most of the time if you have a pink eye or develop redness in your eyes, it’s not because of the coronavirus; it will go away on its own. The important step to take is to first remove your contact lenses and wear glasses. And then if your vision does worsen or you develop eye pain to call your local eye doctor, or of course if you develop symptoms consistent with coronavirus to call your primary care medical practitioner.
Reporter: Wow. It’s kind of remarkable how much incremental information we do get about the symptoms of coronavirus, but to that point, what does coronavirus do to one’s eyes and is there any risk of permanent damage?
Dr. Jason Brinton: Fortunately, what we’re seeing so far is probably not a risk of permanent damage, although it’s too soon to say for sure there have been several reports of conjunctivitis or inflammation or redness of the white part of the eye, but beyond that, what we’re seeing so far as eye conditions is it’s pretty self-limited, goes away on its own, and the concerns, of course, are relative to the lungs and other organ systems in the body.
Reporter: What about those of us with contacts? We’ve been hearing that if you wear contacts, you’re more likely to touch your eyes. Maybe you should opt-in for glasses instead. What should we be considering there? If we are contact wearers?
Dr. Jason Brinton: The American Academy of Ophthalmology has recommended that those who wear contacts during the COVID-19 pandemic switch to glasses. There are a few reasons for this. The main reason is that COVID-19 depends on human interaction and on our own habits to propagate. If we all social distance for three weeks, the virus would go away. There are a number of reasons why that’s impractical of course, but by social distancing that avoids spreading the virus through cough and droplets. The other way that this is passed though is that we all have a habit of touching our faces. Studies show that we touch our faces sometimes up to 20 times per hour. And by reducing the number of times we touch our faces, the hope is that that can reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
If you do need to wear contact lenses, what we recommended is is that you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds as has been frequently discussed both before and after placing the contacts and before and after removing them or touching your face. If you do have a pair of glasses, make sure to keep those glasses clean. Studies have shown that plastic and metal can hold the coronavirus for up to 48 to 72 hours. So the preferred method would be to keep your glasses clean and wear spectacles at this time if possible