While preventative eye care is delayed during COVID 19 pandemic, treatment for medical emergencies is still available and as important as ever. Many contact lenses wearers are concerned about the transmission of the virus and are worried that contact lens use makes them more vulnerable and susceptible to catching COVID. If you’re concerned you’re at a higher risk of catching the coronavirus because you wear contact lenses, then this guide on the top tips for contact lens wearers during the COVID 19 pandemic can help to keep you and your loved ones safe, while ensuring you continue to practice proper lens care in order to remain healthy.
This virus can spread through the eyes. It’s classified as a mild to severe respiratory illness. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, digestive upset, cough, and a fever, all of which can show up two to fourteen days after exposure. People that have a severe infection may die from complications or they can develop pneumonia.
During this time, it’s crucial that you protect yourself and limit eye exposure. This can be done by wearing protective eyewear, in addition to a face shield. Some people will also wear latex gloves at this time, however, there is a shortage on gloves, so finding any available for purchase is nearly impossible these days. If you wear contact lenses, then you’ll want to use the best contact lens solution to ensure the bacteria is eliminated as your lenses soak during the night.
How the Virus is Transmitted
When a person who is sick talks or coughs, virus particles are able to spray from their nose or mouth, into another person’s face. That person is more likely to inhale these drops through their nose and mouth; however, they can also enter through the eyes. A person can also be infected by simply touching something with the virus on it, such as a doorknob or car door, and then touch their eyes.
During this time, any routine eye care appointments have been delayed in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Limiting contact between patients and doctors will be key in helping the virus spread.
At this time, vital disposable medical supplies must also be conserved. This includes face shields and gloves. These supplies are in high demand in hospitals right now.
While the majority of in-person medical appointments have been delayed or rescheduled, some facilities offer telemedicine appointments, allowing for virtual visits on video chat or over the phone. However, urgent eye appointments are still available at some facilities. If you have a medical emergency that requires you to make an in-person visit, then you may be anxious about going to your doctor appointment during this time. However, you should never put off treatment for an eye emergency.
As I mentioned earlier, preventative care and routine eye exams have been put on hold. This is done in order to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus, while also conserving important medical supplies. For many, the inability to meet with their physician may be very distressing. Fortunately, treatment will still be available for medical emergencies. Currently, there is no date in sight in which doctors will commence providing preventative care and treatment.
What Qualifies as an Eye Medical Emergency?
Medical professionals will take extra precautions during this time to ensure you stay healthy. While most doctors have stopped seeing patients for preventative care, there are some who will see their patients in an event of a medical emergency.
Doctors will continue to see patients who are experiencing the following issues:
- Sudden loss of vision
- Changes in vision such as blank, wavy, or blurry spots.
- Eye injuries
- Eye pain and headache
- You have eye pain, headache, red eye, nausea, and vomiting
Should you visit your physician during the pandemic, you can expect some changes to procedures and eye exams.
The facility may request that you wait in your vehicle or outside, instead of waiting in the waiting room. This will protect the medical staff, other patients, and yourself from exposure to the virus.
Many people may avoid treatment for possible eye infections during this time, worried that they’ll be exposed to the virus, however, delaying emergency medical attention can result in serious permanent eye damage. If you have any signs that indicate you may have an eye infection, contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor may call in antibiotics based on the description of your symptoms, or they may schedule a video medical appointment, which will prevent the need for you to have an in-person medical appointment.
If your doctor does want to see you in person, you can expect some changes to procedures during exams:
- The doctor may request that you avoid speaking until your exam is complete, in order to prevent you from coughing on breathing on them during close contact.
- You may need to wear a face shield during your exam
While eye care is only currently reserved for medical emergencies, many patients who wear contact lenses are concerned they’re at an increased risk of exposure, because of the fact that they wear lenses. Some wonder if they should stop wearing lenses altogether, fearing that the virus can latch onto the surface of the lens. However, experts have reassured lens wearers that they can continue to wear their contact lenses, as long as they practice proper hygiene and follow their doctor ordered care regimen.
Following certain precautions, such as good contact lens hygiene, washing your hands, and avoiding touching and rubbing your eyes, mouth, and hands, can help you stay safe.
There’s no evidence that proves that wearing contact lenses can increase a person’s risk of infection. However, a contact lens wearer will touch their eyes more often than someone who doesn’t wear lenses. If you’re not able to avoid touching your eyes in order to adjust your lenses, then you can wear glasses more often. When you substitute contact lenses with glasses, this can force you to pause before you rub your eyes and can also decrease eye irritation, which will minimize how often you touch your eyes. If you decide to continue to wear your contacts, then follow these tips:
Sunglasses or corrective lenses can shield the eyes from respiratory droplets. However, they cannot provide one hundred percent protection. A virus will still be able to reach a person’s eyes from the bottoms, tops, and sides of the glasses. If you’re providing care to a person who may have been exposed to the virus, or a sick person, then safety goggles may be a better choice.
Keep Important Eyecare Supplies on Hand
Experts also advise stocking up on important medication, so you’ll have it on hand in the event supplies become very limited. However, this may not be a possibility for everyone. If your insurance approves the purchase of more than one month’s supply of eye medication, such as for the treatment of glaucoma, then it’s important that you purchase the extra medication immediately. Some insurance companies will approve the purchase of a three-month supply during a natural disaster. Speak with your eye care specialist or pharmacist in order to get approval from your insurance.
Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes
If you wear contacts, then it’s now more important than ever to stop rubbing your eyes or touching your lenses throughout the day to adjust them. This can be a difficult habit for many people to break, however, doing so will lower your risk of infection. If you feel the need to touch your eyes, use a tissue instead of your bare fingers. If you have dry eyes, this can make it even more difficult to avoid touching or rubbing your eyes. If you feel that you have to touch your eyes, whether to rub them or administer medication, then make sure that you wash your hands with hot water and soap for at least twenty seconds, then wash them an additional time.
Make sure you’re washing your hands after you blow your nose, cough, sneeze, use the restroom, or right before eating.
If you don’t have access to a sink, then use sanitizer on your hands. Allow the sanitizer to dry on your hands completely, then apply another layer.
When you’re in public, don’t touch your face, especially around your mouth, eyes, and nose. If you do touch your face, make sure you wash your hands immediately.
If you sneeze or cough, cover your face with a tissue or your elbow. If you use a tissue, throw it away as soon as possible.
For many, contact lens care can be as simple as tossing out a pair of contact lenses and inserting a brand-new pair. But if you wear rigid contact lenses and not disposable soft lenses, then you will need to clean and disinfect them daily.
For the most part, contact lens care will remain the same during this time. As usual, make sure that you disinfect your contact lenses often or dispose of your daily lenses each day. You should also regularly disinfect your rigid lenses one to two times a month, based on your doctor’s instructions.
- If you become sick, whether it’s COVID or a cold, make sure you discontinue lens use.
- If you have lenses that have expired or are nearing expiration, then speak with your doctor. Your doctor will ensure that you have a prescription refill.
- To further protect yourself from infection, wash your hands thoroughly with an alcohol-based detergent before you insert your contacts.
- Make sure that you always use an alcohol-based detergent between one eye and the other.
- Once you’ve inserted your contacts, wash your hands an additional time.
- If possible, use latex gloves when handling your lenses.
- When inserting or removing your lenses, don’t touch your mouth or nose.
- Pay close attention to the contact lens expiration date.
- If you use monthly or weekly contact lenses, they should be disinfected using a special catalyst container and a hydrogen peroxide solution. Avoid using multipurpose preservative solutions. Change the lens case more often than usual.
- For rigid contacts, use an enzymatic cleaner once a week, which will prevent the adhesion of mucoprotein deposits.
- If you normally use artificial tears, try to only purchase single-dose products.
The virus can also be deposited on the surface of eyeglasses and sunglasses if the glasses are worn in a contaminated environment. Because of this, you should avoid touching your glasses and wash your hands and glasses, often. The glasses should be washed with a strong liquid soap that’s nonabrasive, at the end of the day or when coming home from work or an outing, such as a trip to the grocery store. The glasses should be washed for thirty to forty seconds, rinsed in warm water, and dried completely with a soft cloth.
During this time, proper hygiene will be more important than ever. These tips for contact lens wearers during the COVID 19 pandemic will keep you and your loved ones safe by reducing the risk of infection. If you suffer from dry eyes or often find yourself rubbing your eyes or adjusting your contacts throughout the day, then I recommend making the switch to glasses. If you’re able to avoid touching and rubbing your eyes during this time, then ensure you follow your doctor’s care instructions and soak and disinfect your contacts properly in order to kill bacteria.
You may also want to make the switch to daily disposable lenses since they can be a safer option if you’re someone who is often guilty of forgetting to soak your lenses overnight. By following the safety tips I’ve included here, you will significantly reduce your risk of infection, although it will not eliminate your risk altogether. During this time, if you experience an eye medical emergency, it will still be as important as ever to meet with your physician in order to receive proper treatment, such as antibiotics for an eye infection, before the condition worsens, and results in permanent damage. If you’re not sure whether an emergency visit is warranted, speak with an advice nurse or your optometrist for treatment options.