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VERIFY: Should you wear contact lenses or glasses during coronavirus?

There’s no evidence contact wearers are at greater risk, but should you stop wearing them? Experts are divided.

WASHINGTON — QUESTION:

Are people who wear contacts rather than glasses at greater risk of getting COVID-19?

ANSWER:

There is no evidence that contact wearers have an increased risk.

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

American Academy of Ophthalmology: Thomas L. Steinemann, MD, clinical spokesperson 

Dr. Lyndon Jones: Professor and director of the Centre for Ocular Research & Education at the University of Waterloo; author of "The COVID-19 pandemic: Important considerations for contact lens practitioners," and affiliated with Alcon, CooperVision, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Novartis and Ophtecs

PROCESS:

We’re all looking for ways to limit our exposure to COVID-19, and some people are exploring social media for medical do's and don'ts. 

One piece of advice circulating says that if you wear contacts, swap them out for glasses to avoid touching your eyes more than necessary. 

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So we're verifying if there's any evidence that wearing contacts puts you at greater risk during the pandemic. 

Our Verify researchers looked at information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and Dr. Lyndon Jones, who was the lead author of a new peer-reviewed paper on this exact topic.

All our experts agree, currently, there is no evidence showing that wearing contacts rather than glasses puts you at a greater risk for contracting the virus.

"When we look at patients who are contact lens wearers and we look at the evidence around whether they’re more likely to develop COVID-19 versus spectacle wearers, there is no evidence to support that whatsoever," Jones said.

But not all our experts agree on what that means contact wearers should do.

A clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology said they’re erring on the side of caution.

"The short answer is, we look at this situation through a different lens," Thomas L. Steinemann, a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said. "We look at what is known about other viruses and how they can be transmitted through tears asymptomatically. We also know that most patients don’t follow proper contact lens hygiene. Add that together with a dose of common sense, and we err on the side of caution, and suggest patients consider taking a break from contact lenses for a while." 

The CDC said that people who are healthy can continue wearing contacts, so long as you practice good hygiene. 

If you’re feeling sick, that’s when Dr. Jones said you should throw on your specs.

"In a small number of patients who are sick, they've been able to find the virus on the ocular surface," Jones said. "If you're feeling unwell that's the time to stop wearing your lenses."

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