Coronavirus BRIEFING

CORE Advises Contact Lens Wearers on Safe Use Amidst COVID-19 Concerns, Reinforces Proper Hand Hygiene

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WATERLOO, Ontario—As containers of soap and hand sanitizer become limited in availability since the global spread of coronavirus, people are paying more attention to handwashing practices. While there is no suggestion of an association between COVID-19 and safe contact lens wear, for the millions of lens wearers worldwide, the increased focus on hand washing is a welcome message, experts have noted. A recent literature review from professor emeritus Desmond Fonn and the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) reports that proper hand hygiene is especially important for people who use contact lenses.

The peer-reviewed study, published in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, draws attention to how handwashing habits could affect the development of contact lens related microbial keratitis, which can be severe and sight-threatening, and corneal inflammatory events.

“Everyone is suddenly Googling handwashing techniques with the spread of COVID-19,” said Lyndon Jones, PhD, DSc, FCOptom, FAAO, FBCLA, the paper’s co-author and director of CORE, which is located her in Waterloo. “Clearly this is sensible advice to help reduce the risk of transferring the virus, however, outside of the current crisis, focus on good handwashing techniques should be mandatory for contact lens wearers, too. With the amount of information available on this topic right now, it is timely to remind lens wearers of just how much the simple act of thorough handwashing can reduce their risk of lens-related complications occurring.”

The paper notes that in line with its ability to reduce the spread of disease, careful and thorough handwashing with soap and water followed by hand drying with unused paper towels should greatly reduce the transfer of microbial contamination from hands to the contact lens or eye.

Clean hands plus use of daily disposables results in the lowest risk of contact lens-related complications. For wearers of reusable lenses there are additional guidelines on lens and case cleaning, which can be downloaded for patient use from CORE’s Contact Lens Update educational resource

“Contact lenses are a safe, highly effective form of vision correction used by millions of people worldwide, but ignoring good contact lens care can have a devastating effect on eye health and vision,” said CORE senior research associate Miriam Heynen, MSc, who conducted the experiment with laboratory research assistant Vivian Chan, Bsc. “Taking care of your contact lenses with clean, dry hands is essential.”