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Do Contact Lenses Increase Your Risk for COVID-19?

Woman putting in contact lens, ECU of eye
Michael  W. Smith, MD - Blogs
By Michael W. Smith, MDBoard-certified internistApril 01, 2020

This post was updated on 4/29/20 to reflect new information.

As the COVID-19 began unfolding in the U.S. you may have noticed headlines that contact lens wearers should wear their glasses instead to help prevent coronavirus infection. As a contact lens wearer, and someone who rarely wears my glasses, I was concerned – I wanted to make sure my choices aren’t putting myself or my family at risk.

Now, after learning more about the virus, it looks like contacts are not the direct threat we thought they might be. The CDC says there’s no evidence that contact lens wearers are at a higher risk of getting COVID-19.

This news definitely puts my mind at ease, but still, it does make sense to continue to be extra careful with eye-care during this crisis.

If your hands are contaminated with virus and your rub your eye, you could potentially infect yourself. Your eyes are connected to your nose, so the virus can make its way into our respiratory tract where it can flourish. So, if you feel the urge to rub your eye, use a tissue instead of your finger.

Dry eyes can trigger the urge to rub our eyes. Stock up on some moisturizing drops to keep them moist. Make sure to wash your hands before putting drops in your eyes.

It’s not common, but COVID-19 can cause an eye infection called conjunctivitis, known more commonly as pink eye. The symptoms are similar to other viral causes of pink eye – red, itchy eyes and possibly drainage. If you have pink eye along with fever and cough, isolate yourself to make sure you don’t spread it and call your doctor to see if you should have a coronavirus test.

If your contacts cause your eyes to be itchy or irritated, you should consider wearing glasses instead of contacts over the next few weeks. Reaching for your eyes may be more temptation than you can stand. Use your judgement and do what’s best for you to stay healthy.

And as always, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before putting contacts in or taking them out. That’s more important now than ever.

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About the Author
Michael W. Smith, MD

Michael Smith, MD, CPT, is a board-certified internal medicine doctor and WebMD’s Chief Medical Editor. He is also an American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer with a passion for helping people live a healthy, active lifestyle. He appears regularly as an expert on national and local broadcast media.

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