Three of the world’s most published researchers in eye health are responding to misinformation circulating regarding contact lens and spectacles/glasses wear amidst Novel Coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic.
Lyndon Jones, director of the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) at the University of Waterloo (Canada); Philip Morgan, director of Eurolens Research at The University of Manchester (United Kingdom); and Jason Nichols, Associate Vice President Research and Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry (United States) and editor in chief of Contact Lens Spectrum are advising eye care professionals and consumers to heed sound, evidence-based practices.
- Contact Lens Wear is Safe. Despite myths and misinformation that have arisen over the past 48 hours, contact lens wear remains a safe and highly effective form of vision correction for millions of people worldwide.
- Proper Hand Washing is Essential. When using contact lenses or spectacles, careful and thorough handwashing with soap and water followed by hand drying with unused paper towels is paramount. For contact lens wearers, this should occur before every insertion and removal.
- Disinfect Contact Lenses. Contact lens wearers should either dispose of their daily disposable lenses each evening or regularly disinfect their monthly and two-week lenses according to the manufacturer and eye care professional instructions.
- Disinfect Spectacles and Glasses. Some viruses such as COVID-19 can remain on hard surfaces for hours to days, which can be transferred to spectacles wearers’ fingers and faces. This especially holds true for presbyopes (people generally over the age of 40). Most presbyopes require reading glasses and they may be putting them on and off their face multiple times a day. This age group appears to be among the more vulnerable population for developing COVID-19, as compared with contact lens wearers, who are typically younger.
- Discontinue Lens Wear Only if Sick. Ceasing contact lens wear when sick is advised, consistent with guidance for other types of illness.
- Spectacles are Not Proven to Offer Protection. There is no scientific evidence that wearing spectacles or glasses provide protection against COVID-19 or other viral transmissions.
A recent peer-reviewed paper published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye draws attention to how handwashing habits could affect the development of contact lens-related microbial keratitis and corneal inflammatory events.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization recommend that people clean their hands often to reduce their risk of contracting the virus. Specifically, they advise all people to:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Use approved personal protective eyewear (medical masks, goggles or face shields) in certain settings involved in the care of patients (https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/331215/WHO-2019-nCov-IPCPPE_use-2020.1-eng.pdf).
About the Experts
The Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) was established in 1988 at the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry & Vision Science. Over the next three decades, the organization evolved from a three-person operation into a thriving hub of basic and applied research, collaborating with sponsors, agencies and academia on advanced biosciences, clinical research and education. Its uncompromising independence and results of the highest quality have been at the heart of many of the most prominent advances in eye health. Today, Director Lyndon Jones and the approximately 50-person team serves a range of ophthalmic sectors, including medical devices, ocular pharmaceuticals, digital technology and others, with a focus on the anterior segment. For more information, please visit core.uwaterloo.ca.
Eurolens Research at the University of Manchester is a specialist contact lens and ocular surface research group, founded in 1990. The group is led by Professor Philip Morgan who also serves at Head of Optometry and Deputy Head of the Division of Pharmacy and Optometry at the University. Professor Morgan is Immediate Past President of the International Society for Contact Lens Research and Vice President of the International Association of Contact Lens Educators.
Jason J. Nichols, OD MPH PhD is an Associate Vice President for Research in the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Professor in the School of Optometry. He also actively conducts ocular surface and contact lens research and trains PhD students and Fellows. He writes and lectures extensively on contact lenses and ocular surface conditions such as dry eye and meibomian gland disease. Dr. Nichols is currently Editor of Contact Lens Spectrum and Contact Lenses Today®, whose publications reach over 50,000 eyecare practitioners worldwide. He also chairs the Global Specialty Lens Symposium, which is the largest contact lens-specific meeting in North America. Dr. Nichols also serves as an Associate Editor for Eye and Contact Lens and is on the editorial board of The Ocular Surface. Dr. Nichols is a dual diplomate in both the American Academy of Optometry’s (AAO) sections of Public Health and Environmental Optometry and Cornea, Contact Lenses, and Refractive Technology. His awards include three Ezell Fellowships and the Borish Award from the American Academy of Optometry and Distinguished Scholar and Fellow of the National Academies of Practice.