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How Contact Lenses Affect Your Risk of COVID-19

THURSDAY, April 23, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Contact lens users may be at increased risk for coronavirus infection, so they need to be extra careful, an eye expert says.

"There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 transmission by handling of contact lenses," said David Chu, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, in Newark. "However, since contact lenses can cause eye irritation, wearers tend to touch their face or to rub their eyes more often, which puts them at a higher risk for acquiring infection."

Strict hygiene is essential when wearers handle their contacts.

"They must wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water, and dry their hands completely before handling contact lenses," Chu said in a Rutgers news release.

Standard contact lens care techniques should be adequate during the coronavirus pandemic.

But people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 or who live with someone diagnosed with the virus should consider switching to glasses, Chu suggested.

Even though SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been found in human tears, it seems to be uncommon, Chu said. In case studies, patients who tested positive for the virus in their nose and throat did not have detectable levels in their tears.

It's not clear whether tears can transmit COVID-19, but it appears unlikely, according to Chu.

Conjunctivitis ("pink eye") is a symptom of COVID-19, but it is much less common than fever, cough, shortness of breath and diarrhea.

"Contact lens wearers with conjunctivitis should stop using contact lenses immediately since the lens may not fit properly and may cause an abrasion on the cornea or a bacterial cornea infection, which is painful and a potentially sight-threatening complication," Chu said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

SOURCE: Rutgers University, news release, April 15, 2020

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