COVID-19 is respiratory virus causing a worldwide pandemic. Typical signs and symptoms of the virus have become well-known. Patients with a fever and/or respiratory symptoms, cough, shortness or breathe or having traveled over seas are considered suspect. Other less common symptoms noted can be headaches, loss of taste and smell, and/or gastric distress. The signs and symptoms involving the eyes are less common, but should be considered. The ease of transmission through the tears is unknown at this time. Studies have been conducted with mixed results.
How does coronavirus affect the eye?
According to a nurse in Washington, one of the signs of COVID-19 was red eyes. Nurse Chelsey Earnest said, ""It's something that I witnessed in all of them. They have, like … allergy eyes. The white part of the eye is not red. It's more like they have red eye shadow on the outside of their eyes."
The American Academy of Ophthamology said the virus may cause a mild follicular conjunctiva response that was undistinguishable from other types of virual conjunctivitis. Furthermore, a red eye was present in 3% of COVID-19 patients and "conjunctival conjestion in 1% of those with the virus."
Should contact lens wearers substitute glasses to avoid contracting COVID-19?
Experts now recommend that it may be safer for contact lens wearers to switch to glasses. The Academy of Ophthamology's rationality is that one will touch their eyes and face more often if they wear contact lenses. Additionally, your glasses may serve as additional protection against respiratory droplets. This is not 100% protection, and if you are treating or interacting with a sick person, safety googles are more effective.
Although the virus is spread through droplets such as a cough or sneeze, virus particles can enter through your eyes. If you touch something the virus is on, and then touch your eyes, you are at risk.Ophthamologist Sonal Tuli says,“Consider wearing glasses more often, especially if you tend to touch your eyes a lot when your contacts are in. Substituting glasses for lenses can decrease irritation and force you to pause before touching your eye.”
As always, one should always wash their hands before inserting/removing lenses, disinfect their lenses and cases according to package instructions, and only wear their lenses as directed by their eye doctors.