The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) have recently released a statement regarding eye safety tips in relation to the coronavirus behind Covid-19. Among its recommendations is to wear eyeglasses and skip the contact lenses for the meantime in light of the current pandemic.
Rare but Early Symptom
The recommendation was made in line with initial studies that point to conjunctivitis as an early, albeit rare, symptom of Covid-19 infection. Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is the infection or irritation of the conjunctiva, the transparent membrane lining the eyelids and covering the eyeballs’ white part.
When the small blood vessels in the transparent membrane become inflamed, typically by a bacteria or virus, these become more visible. In turn, the whites of the eyes appear either bright pink or reddish, thus, the name. The inflammation can also cause symptoms like grittiness, itchiness and discharge in one or both eyes, even tearing.
Again, conjunctivitis as an early symptom of Covid-19 infections but it’s a rare occurrence according to initial studies. Only a small number of patients – estimates range from 1% to 3% – show signs of conjunctivitis before other symptoms appear.
Common Transmission Mode
The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 can also spread through the eyes in a number of ways. These include via infected eye fluids and droplets that enter through the eyes, which are also common transmission modes for other viruses that cause the common cold and flu.
Scientists and doctors studying the coronavirus are discovering that ocular secretions, or fluids, are a likely means of transmissions. In patients with eye symptoms, however, it’s impossible to determine whether the Covid-19 infection was transmitted or started in the eyes. Other methods of transmission are possible, after all, including face touching and inhalation of droplets.
This brings us to the main question: Should you wear eyeglasses and give your contact lenses a rest at a time when the coronavirus seems to be transmitted through the eyes? Yes, perhaps you should but you must discuss it with your optometrist at Pearle Vision.
You may continue wearing your contact lenses because it’s your choice. You can still practice safety precautions to reduce your risks of contracting the coronavirus, such as more frequent hand washing and safer handling of your lenses.
But if you can make the switch to eyeglasses, you should because of its numerous benefits at this time. First, eyeglasses serve as a protective barrier against your hands, especially when you have the habit of touching your eyes when you’re wearing contact lenses. You will be less likely to touch your eyes with the eyeglasses between your fingers and your eyes.
Second, eyeglasses add an extra layer of protection for your eyes. These serve as a barrier between your eyes and the infected respiratory droplets floating in the air, unseen. While eyeglasses aren’t 100% protective unlike most medical-grade safety goggles, these are better than nothing, unless you’re in the healthcare sector.
But since infected droplets can still enter your eyes via the top, sides and bottom of your eyeglasses, you should still be mindful of your hands touching your face one too many times. You have to wash your hands with soap and water for about 20 seconds as often as possible, as well as using a tissue in removing your glasses. You should also disinfect your eyeglasses regularly with alcohol and tissue.