This article is mainly directed towards people who continue to use contact lenses amidst the COVID-19 breakout. In order to ensure that you do not help in spreading the virus further, we advise that you let go of your contact lenses for a while and switch to wearing frames instead.
This is because wearing glasses reduces the number of times a person touches their face - a claim made by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Since such contact is a primary reason for the spread of this virus, wearing glasses can greatly reduce the risk of catching COVID-19.
What's Wrong With Contact Lenses?
People using contact lenses have to touch their eyes many times in order to insert and remove their lenses. Not only this, but such people also happen to touch their eyes and face more often than people who do not wear contact lenses, as was said by Dr. Thomas Steinemann- a clinical spokesperson of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
You touch your eye, and then you touch another part of your body," said Steinemann, You rub your eyes, then rub your face, scratch your face, put your fingers in your mouth, put your fingers in your nose," he added. "Some people are not very hygienic and may have forgotten to first wash their hands."
It is also possible that glasses provide slightly better protection from the particles of coronavirus, which might be floating in the air. Steinemann has confirmed, however, that the chances to get infected from your eyes are much less as compared to infection by mouth and nose.
If you happen to be a health professional who might come in contact with the patients of COVID-19, then this precaution must be followed rigorously. According to Steinmann, ordinary people might also want to embrace this additional step to ensure that they put as many filters as they can between the virus and themselves.
If you're wondering whether or not you can get a virus directly from your eye, then the answer is – no, you cannot. Dr. Steinemann has said that theoretically, it's possible for someone to contract the disease through their eyes; however, so far, there is no proof of the same.
It might be possible if we allow ourselves to stretch and be extreme about the idea, says Dr. William Schaffner- a disease expert and a professor of preventive medicine and infectious disease at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
Could You Get a Pink Eye?
It is likely that the outbreak of COVID-19 might also result in people contracting conjunctivitis, which is a highly contagious disease, often known as pink eye. Conjunctivitis occurs when there is slight inflammation of the thin transparent layer called the conjunctiva in the eye. This is a layer of tissue that covers the white of the eye along with its insides.
Steinemann described conjunctiva as a modified form of the mucus membrane, similar to the insides of your mouth, pharynx, nose, or nasal cavity. It is very moist and hospitable for viruses, as a matter of fact, there are a number of organisms that can easily stick to the conjunctiva. If you wear contact lenses, it could become even easier for such viruses to latch themselves to your eyes.
Conjunctivitis comes with a number of symptoms such as tearing, burning, itching, blurred vision, or the red and pink coloring of the white in your eyes. There might also be some pus and mucus followed by a yellow discharge, which can crust over eyelashes and cause your eyes to stick together during sleep.
Reports from around the world have shown that 1-3% of people who contracted Covid-19 also has conjunctivitis. This fact is cause for much concern because coronavirus can spread easily when body fluids of an infected person are touched. It may also spread by touching the objects which were used by the person carrying the infected fluid.
This information has led to a number of eye organizations around the world to advise ophthalmologists not to see their patients unless there is some urgent cause like eye injuries. This includes official as well as surgical care.
"Each of us has a societal responsibility to not function as a vector of a potentially fatal disease," the academy said in its announcement. "This is an existential crisis. We, as physicians, must respond to it and support our colleagues and our communities. Be safe."
A recently released study by the American Academy of Ophthalmology did not find any evidence that the COVID-19 virus was released along with tears. But since no one in the study had conjunctivitis, this cannot be said for sure.
What To Do?
The facts above certainly do not mean that red eyes or pinkish eyes are a sign of Covid-19. The SARS-CoV-2 virus or the Novel Coronavirus is just one of those viruses which might cause conjunctivitis. As a matter of fact, it's such a common disease that it was not very surprising when scientists found out that the new COVID-19 virus will do the same.
There are a number of organisms that can stick readily to the conjunctiva, Steinemann has said, they might also stick to the contact lenses resting on the conjunctiva, he concluded.
There are a number of reasons, including many viruses and bacteria which are responsible for the common cold, which might later cause pink eye. Even fungi, parasites and amoebas might do the same when they are picked up while swimming in contaminated waters. Other reasons for the pink eye could be allergic reactions to substances like dust, pool chlorine, shampoos, and even eye drops.
There are many more benign causes of the pink eye including seasonal allergies and a sty (a clogged eye duct or eye pimple), a chalazion which is an inflammation of the gland near the eyelid; there's also blepharitis which is a form of infection of the skin along the eyelid and iritis- an inflammation of the only colored part of the eye called the iris.
These conditions are not contagious; thus, you have nothing to worry about. However, a pink or red eye is enough reason for you to call your doctor in case you have other symptoms of COVID-19 as well, for instance, fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
It could just be allergies, in case you are sneezing often, and your eyes and nose itch. However, this is a good time to be careful about social distancing at least at 6 feet and practicing appropriate self-hygiene like washing your hands in the right manner and not touching your face, mouth, and nose.
It might be best to put down your contact lenses at this time to ensure the maximum security from COVID-19 for yourself and your family. You might want to disinfect your contact lenses.
The best option, however, is to give them up for the time being.
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