Contact lenses are more at risk of catching the COVID-19 ?

Les lentilles cornéennes mettent-elles plus à risque d’attraper la COVID-19 ?

Les lentilles cornéennes mettent-elles plus à risque d’attraper la COVID-19 ?


May 30, 2020 9h16


Contact lenses are more at risk of catching the COVID-19 ?

Langis Michaud

Professor, School of optometry, University of Montreal

THE SCIENCE IN HIS WORDS / The virus SARS-CoV-2, responsible for the Covid-19, can be transmitted through tears or touching the eyes ? The contact lens wearers are most at risk ? As these questions arise, here is what to see things more clearly.

The fact that an ophthalmologist chinese has been one of the first victims of the Covid-19, after having been exposed to an asymptomatic patient, raised the issue of the potential presence of the virus in the eye and its possible transmission through the tears. Some organizations have quickly issued warnings regarding the potential risk of wearing contact lenses in the time of a pandemic.

These positions must, however, be nuanced because of the evidence that have been released since. Therefore, it is now possible to properly advise lens wearers based on the most recent advances of science.

Comply with the hygiene measures

Establish immediately that the wearing of contact lenses remains safe, provided that patients adhere scrupulously to the hygiene measures required. This conclusion comes from a review of the literature published on April 22, 2020, prepared in consultation with nearly 200 articles peer reviewed.

Some of these items are state of the ability of the virus to bind to cells of the ocular surface due to the affinity of one or the other of its components. However, such a link does not automatically translate into an ability of the virus to generate an eye infection.

In fact, because of the blinking and the exchange of tears, the virus has very little chance to remain sufficiently long on the surface of the eye in order to cause problems. The same concern was shown in other episodes of contagion, that is, during the appearance of the virus in the sidaou of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Traces of these abuses have been found in the tears of patients, but no cases of direct infection or transmission by eye has been documented for all these years. It is the same situation with the COVID.

Of ocular diseases rare

The ocular manifestations caused by the COVID are so rare. When this happens, in less than 1 % of those infected, there is irritation of the eyes manifesting itself in the form of conjunctivitis, an inflammation benign the white of the eye (conjunctiva). Viruses, in general, are indeed the main cause.

The inflammation may last from 10 to 20 days following the onset of the first symptoms related to the COVID. In more rare cases, the cornea is reached : it is called keratoconjunctivitis. These attacks are well controlled with the treatments usually applied in such circumstances, without major complications in the long term.

Contact lenses, a vector ?

Contact lenses are worn by over 140 million people around the world and continues to be a modality of vision correction very effective and safe.

Les lentilles cornéennes mettent-elles plus à risque d’attraper la COVID-19 ?

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The first element to consider is the lens itself. Can it be a vector of spread of the virus ? Of course, the virus can live on inanimate surfaces, but there is no study proving that, in the middle of the eye, the virus can colonize the lens and remain there. The lens therefore cannot be seriously considered as a vector of transmission or spread of the disease. The use of the lenses one-day disposable (single-use) further reduces this possibility. This mode of wear is recognized as to provide, all conditions combined, the best security in the area of eye health.

The second element concerns the handling of the lens, which implies that the patient should touch his eyes during installation and removal thereof. It becomes obvious that the washing of the hands, usually recommended when wearing contact lenses, is even more essential in times of pandemic.

This being said, it must be thoroughly dry hands before handling the lenses since tap water can be contaminated by other pathogens than the COVID, more virulent and damaging to the eye. It should also never rinse their lenses or case lenses with tap water, much less the store. The drying of hands should be done with a disposable paper and not a towel reusable which can easily contaminate.

Finally, the maintenance of contact lenses should be performed with the products recommended by the eye care professional, and specifically formulated for this purpose. Ideally, a peroxide solution will be used for the disinfection and soaking night. Rinse in the morning before the ask, will be done with a saline solution made for contact lenses.

The glasses are not the solution

For those who are reluctant, it is best to consider wearing glasses, waiting for the return to normal ? The answer is NO. In fact, it is proved that the glasses are often inappropriate and that they slide, forcing the person to touch the face more frequently than during the wearing of contact lenses, most of the time without the person can wash the hands before. The risk of transmission increases proportionally.

This risk is present that the virus can live for several days on plastic as the mounts : the contamination by droplets pending to which the individual is exposed, and the adhesion of the virus onto that surface, it is more probable that in the case of contact lenses. Finally, the bezel does not act as a shield against the virus : the nose and the mouth and remains of the entrance doors. In short, the bezel should not be regarded as an element of personal protection against the COVID.

In the rare case where the lens wearer would develop abnormal symptoms (redness, pain, sensitivity to light, sensation of foreign body, secretions abnormal during or after the port), he should immediately contact an optometrist or ophthalmologist. A remote consultation (telemedicine) or, if required, in firm, can be organized quickly.

A few hygiene tips

Although the presence of the virus SARS-CoV-2 has been observed in the tears of some patients, it is very unlikely that this route of transmission promotes the development of systemic disease or a localized infection to the eye.

In these circumstances, the wearing of contact lenses can be considered safe, provided you follow strictly the recommendations of hygiene the following :

  1. Well to clean hands before and after handling contact lenses.
  2. Well dry hands with a clean cloth, disposable.
  3. Do not use tap water to rinse, clean or soak the lens, even temporarily.
  4. Use preferably soft contact lenses one-day disposable (single-use), so without the need of solutions, or case.
  5. If lenses reusable must be worn, use only the cleaning products recommended by your eye care professional.
  6. Replace the case contact lenses after 2 months maximum. Clean it daily with a solution of contact lenses. Do not use water, boil it, or go in the dishwasher.
  7. Avoid sleeping with contact lenses.
  8. Quickly see an optometrist or an ophthalmologist in the event of unusual symptoms.

* * * * *

This text first appeared on the website of the franco-canadian of The Conversation. Reproduced with permission.

“The science in her words” is a forum where scientists of all disciplines can take the floor, either in open letters, or excerpts from books.

Les lentilles cornéennes mettent-elles plus à risque d’attraper la COVID-19 ?

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