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