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Keeping Your Eyes Healthy during COVID-19

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By Adam Pope and Jessica Martindale

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that people avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, to help prevent the spread of germs from surfaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the many of us who wear prescription contacts or glasses, are there added risks to touching your eyes? Ophthalmologists and optometrists from UAB Callahan Eye Hospital & Clinics provide answers to help you make decisions about protecting yourself and your family.

Is it unsafe to continue wearing contact lenses during COVID-19?

According to the CDC, there is no evidence that contact lens wearers are any more at risk for getting COVID-19 than eyeglass wearers are. “A major mode of transmission of the virus is through touching one’s face with contaminated hands,” says Priscilla Fowler, MD, director of the Cornea Service at Callahan Eye Hospital & Clinics. “Technically, with good hand-washing and hygiene techniques, there should be no increased risk of contracting the virus through contact lens wear. However, this also assumes that patients practice good contact lens hygiene, including proper contact lens disinfection and refraining from contact lens over-wear.”

What precautions should contact wearers take during this time?

It’s important to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, including your fingernails, before handling contact lenses. Make sure to practice good care and cleaning of your contacts, and keep the storage case clean, too.

Is there any indication that COVID-19 can be transmitted through one’s eyes?

“Currently, there is no definitive evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted through contact with tear fluid from the eyes,” Dr. Fowler says.

Should people with eye conditions wait until things get back to normal to see their optometrist or ophthalmologist?

For patients who have a sight-threatening condition that needs ongoing treatment, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration, Dr. Fowler recommends speaking with your doctor about continuing your care. “Hospitals and clinics are taking extreme precautions to protect their patients and staff from COVID-19, so that they can continue taking care of their patients who need them,” Dr. Fowler says. “You should contact your eye care provider if you have an upcoming appointment to determine if you need to proceed or reschedule for a later time.”

How should I be cleaning my glasses or sunglasses?

“Make sure you wash and dry your hands thoroughly before cleaning your glasses,” says Parisa Dudley, OD, clinical assistant professor with UAB Callahan Eye Hospital & Clinics. “Rinse your glasses under lukewarm water to remove dust or debris. You should use lotion-free dishwashing liquid to clean each lens. Gently rub the lenses and frames and wash thoroughly with water. Carefully dry the lenses with a lint-free towel. Any leftover streaks can be removed with a microfiber cloth.”

Dr. Dudley also offers this advice:

  • DON'T use your shirttail or other cloth to clean your glasses, especially when the lenses are dry. This can scratch your lenses.
  • DON'T use saliva to wet your lenses.
  • DON'T use household glass or surface cleaners on your eyeglasses. These products have ingredients that can damage eyeglass lenses and coatings, such as anti-reflective coatings.
  • DON'T use paper towels, napkins, tissues, or toilet paper to clean your lenses. These can scratch or smear your lenses or leave them full of lint.
  • DON'T try to buff away a scratch in your lenses; this only makes it worse.

My glasses constantly fog up when I wear a mask, what should I do?

Dr. Dudley suggests a few different options if you are experiencing foggy glasses. Soap and water creates a surface tension on the glasses that temporarily prevents fog from sticking to glasses. Another great option is anti-fog spray, or using a “flexible nose.” A flexible nose can be found on certain masks and allows the wearer to limit the amount of moisture that comes in or out of the mask.

I think I’ve noticed some changes to my vision, what should I do?

For patients who feel that their vision is changing, Dr. Dudley recommends an eye checkup. Some vision conditions need to be treated immediately, so waiting to see if symptoms go away can make some problems worse. To schedule an appointment, you may call or text 844-UAB-EYES or click here.

How can I safely get my contacts or glasses?

UAB Callahan Eyewear offers several options for getting your contacts, glasses, or sunglasses, including curbside pickup, delivery, and in-store visits. To learn more, please email callahaneyewear@uabmc.edu.