With the recent outbreak of coronavirus [COVID – 19], frequent handwashing to reduce the risk of viral exposure is critical. The manner in which the coronavirus spreads is not entirely understood but transfer of viral particles by hand is believed to be a primary method of viral dissemination. Coronavirus particles can reside on surfaces and they can be transferred by one’s hand. Hand washing can reduce the viral load but it will not eliminate the risk of viral transmission. In addition to frequent handwashing, reducing the risk of exposure to coronavirus includes avoiding touching one’s face and reducing or eliminating the use of contact lenses.
Contact lens wearers may be at increased risk for viral infections due to the need to manually insert and remove contact lenses. In addition, the increased frequency of touching one’s face associated with contact lens wear may increase one’s risk of exposure to viruses.
It is well known that contact lens wearers are at increased risk for bacterial corneal ulcers. While it is too early for any statistical analysis to be available, it is logical that contact lens users may be at significant increased risk for viral transmission of coronavirus by self inoculation due to an increased frequency of touching around one’s eyes related to contact lens wear. Due to the need to adjust contact lenses or apply lubricating drops for dryness of the eyes associated with contact lens wear, inadvertently touching one’s face with an unwashed hand is more likely to occur with contact lens wear.
Contact lenses are a foreign object placed on the cornea. Contact lenses may serve as a vehicle for both bacteria and viruses. Placing a foreign body like a contact lens on your eye with a finger, even a recently washed finger, has the potential to introduce viral or bacterial particles onto the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva of the eye is continuous with the mucous membranes of our respiratory system through the nasolacrimal system. Tears from our eyes drain through the nasolacrimal system into our nasal pharynx and throat.
To reduce the risk of exposure to virus, it is very important to avoid touching your face, mouth, nose, and eyes. If used, contact lenses should only be inserted or removed with clean, washed hands. Ideally, contact lenses should be discarded after removal and not reused. Completely eliminating the use of contact lenses is likely the most effective way to reduce the risk of placing viral particles onto the conjunctiva of your eye.
The recent outbreak of coronavirus may be a good time to reconsider your hygiene practices related to contact lens wear. Laser vision correction can be an effective way to permanently improve one’s vision to obtain freedom from the need for contact lenses. Many contact lens wearing patients decide to undergo laser vision correction after experiencing bacterial corneal ulceration related to contact lens wear. The recent outbreak of coronavirus may be a good time to assess whether laser vision correction is right for you.