COVID-19 and contact lenses: the facts you need to know

A new peer-reviewed paper from five of the world’s most prominent ocular scientists reassures contact lens wearers during the global COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic. We have assembled a series of evidence-based materials to help contact lens wearers, glasses wearers and eye care professionals understand the most important facts.

5 facts contact lens and glasses wearers need to know

Click on the graphic to download for your reference.

1. You Can Keep Wearing Contact Lenses.
There is currently no scientific evidence that contact lens wearers have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 compared with glasses wearers. Consult your eye care practitioner with questions.

2. Good Hygiene Habits are Critical.
Thorough handwashing and drying are essential, as well as properly wearing and caring for contact lenses, ensuring good contact lens case hygiene, and regularly cleaning glasses with soap and water. These habits can help you stay healthy and out of your doctor’s office or hospital. 

3. Regular Eyeglasses / Spectacles Do Not Provide Protection.
No scientific evidence supports rumors that everyday glasses offer protection against COVID-19.

4. Keep Unwashed Hands Away from Your Face.
Whether you wear contact lenses, glasses or require no vision correction at all, avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes with unwashed hands, consistent with World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.

5. If you are ill, temporarily stop wearing your contacts and use your glasses instead.
Once you return to full health and have spoken with your eye doctor, you can start again. Make sure to use new contact lenses and a new lens case.

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PRESS RELEASE: New Research Reassures & Advises Contact Lens Wearers During Coronavirus / COVID-19 Pandemic; Offers Clear Facts and Hygiene Advice

Peer-Reviewed Paper by Prominent Scientists Reinforces Need for Hand Washing,
Warns that Wearing Glasses / Spectacles Does Not Reduce Risk of Infection

WATERLOO, Ontario, April 13, 2020— Moving swiftly to address and correct harmful myths and misinformation, a new peer-reviewed paper from five of the world’s most prominent ocular scientists reassures contact lens wearers during the global COVID-19 / coronavirus pandemic. Published in Contact Lens & Anterior Eye, “The COVID-19 Pandemic: Important Considerations for Contact Lens Practitioners” offers five important facts shown above and in the infographic, for anyone who relies on contact lenses or glasses.

On April 8, the CDC issued updated guidance on contact lens wear during the COVID-19 pandemic, further supporting key findings from the Contact Lens & Anterior Eye paper. The CDC also points out that personal eyeglasses and contact lenses do not qualify as personal protective equipment (PPE).

“Millions of people are asking how COVID-19 affects eye care, especially since approximately two out of every three adults worldwide wear contact lenses, spectacles or eyeglasses. Unfortunately, misinformation has become widespread in recent days. Our goal is to make sure that science-backed truths are understood and shared, replacing fear with fact,” said Dr. Lyndon Jones, director of the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) at the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada) and the paper’s lead author. “Our findings indicate that contact lenses remain a perfectly acceptable form of vision correction during the coronavirus pandemic, as long as people practice good hand hygiene and follow appropriate wear-and-care directions.”

The complete paper incorporates findings from more than 100 referenced sources. It delves into multiple aspects of ocular health amidst the pandemic, including practical advice for eye care professionals. The paper and other resources for good wear and care can be downloaded from COVIDEyeFacts.org.

This new research-based review complements and significantly expands on CORE advisories regarding handwashing and safe contact lens wear issued in mid-March 2020.

Dr. Jones is a preeminent authority on eye care, having authored more than 400 refereed and professional papers and delivered more than 1,000 lectures worldwide in over 40 countries. In 2019, he was named by Expertscape as the most published expert in the field of contact lens research.

Joining him to author the COVID-19 paper were four globally respected researchers, educators and clinicians: Dr. Karen Walsh, professional education team leader and clinical scientist at CORE, Dr. Mark Willcox, director of research at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW (Sydney), Dr. Philip Morgan, director of Eurolens Research at the University of Manchester (United Kingdom), and Dr. Jason Nichols, associate vice president for research and Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry (United States) and editor-in-chief of Contact Lens Spectrum.

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Additional sources of information for contact lens wearers

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advice on contact lens wear under “How to Protect Yourself”
CDC advice on hand washing
World Health Organisation advice on hand washing
Certified Nursing Assistants training material on hand washing
American Optometric Association advice for contact lens wearers during COVID-19
American Academy of Optometry evidence-based advice on glasses and contact lens care and usage during the pandemic
Contact Lens Institute sharing CDC message about contact lens wear
British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) advice for contact lens wearers
National Keratoconus Foundation advice on COVID-19 and Corrective Lens Wear

In the news

WUSA9 – VERIFY: Should you wear contact lenses or glasses during coronavirus?
MarketWatch – Will eyeglasses or contact lenses protect you from coronavirus?
Global News – COVID-19 and contact lenses: What you need to know
HealthDay – New Study Finds That Wearing Contact Lenses Doesn’t Increase Risk of COVID-19 Infection
Mashable – Everything you need to know about contact lenses during the coronavirus pandemic
Medscape – Contact Lens Wearers at No Greater Risk From COVID-19 Than Those Sporting Glasses
CHCH – Contacts and COVID-19
SciTechDaily – Do You Wear Contacts or Glasses? Here’s What Ocular Scientists Advise During COVID-19 Pandemic
New York Post – Do eyeglasses or contact lenses protect you from coronavirus?


Further information for eye care practitioners

Click on the image to download the full paper your reference.

“Our findings indicate that contact lenses remain a perfectly acceptable form of vision correction during the coronavirus pandemic, as long as people observe good hand hygiene and follow appropriate wear-and-care directions,” said Dr. Lyndon Jones, director of the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) at the University of Waterloo and the paper’s lead author.

“Unfortunately, we have seen a number of erroneous reports regarding contact lenses and spectacles in recent days. Our goal is to make sure that science-backed truths are understood and shared, helping eye care practitioners provide accurate, timely counsel to patients.”

On April 8, the CDC issued updated guidance on contact lens wear during the COVID 19 pandemic, further supporting key findings from the Contact Lens & Anterior Eye paper. The CDC additionally points out that personal eyeglasses and contact lenses do not qualify as personal protective equipment (PPE).

The Contact Lens & Anterior Eye paper also reviews why management of adverse events should be retained within optometric systems, offers guidance on sleeping in contact lenses, considers wearing modalities and lens materials, and offers areas for further study.

Meet the authors

Lead author, Professor Lyndon Jones shares five facts contact lens wearers need to know.

Professor Mark Willcox explains why hand washing is so effective against coronaviruses.

Professor Philip Morgan shares contact lens wear and care tips.

Karen Walsh discusses new information for spectacle wearers.

Professor Jason Nichols discusses what to do with contact lenses when unwell.

See all five authors discuss key findings from the paper.

Special edition of Contact Lens Update

An early summary of the myths and facts surrounding contact lens wear, plus four free to download information sheets to help support complaint contact lens wear in patients are available on CORE’s Contact Lens Update online magazine.

This special edition of Contact Lens Update has been produced to address the concerns and confusion that has arisen over the use of contact lenses during the pandemic.

The editorial addresses these issues, sharing evidence-based advice from three global contact lens experts. Hand washing is a focus for both reducing spread of the virus, and for contact lens wearers in general. Best practice techniques are outlined in the feature article that reviews Desmond Fonn’s paper on the impact of hand washing on safe contact lens wear. Click on the image of the paper to view and download this open-access publication.

The impact of a simple intervention to help avoid water when using contact lenses is shared in the conference highlight, and patient handouts are freely available in the clinical insight section.

Materials for use with contact lens wearers to promote safe, compliant wear

Contact Lenses and COVID-19
Healthy habits
Healthy habits for kids
Cleaning tips

Additional sources of information for eye care practitioners

American Academy of Optometrists advice to members on contact lens wear
GP Lens Institute statement on contact lenses and COVID plus resources for practice
Canadian Association of Optometrists general advice for members
British Contact Lens Association (BCLA) advice for eye care practitioners
The College of Optometrists (UK) advice for UK-based eye care practitioners on contact lens sale and supply
Euromcontact advice for eye care practitioners on contact lens wear (multiple languages)
Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia position statement on contact lens wear and COVID-19

In the news

Insight – Study dispels myths surrounding coronavirus and contact lens wear
Vision Monday – New Peer-Reviewed Paper in Contact Lens & Anterior Eye Offers Advice to Contact Lens Practitioners During COVID-19 Pandemic
Healio – Data reaffirm contact lenses safe for healthy individuals during COVID-19
Review of Optometry – Keep CL Wear Safe During COVID-19
Optician – Contact lenses safe to wear during pandemic
Physician’s Briefing – Guidance Presented for Contact Lens Use During COVID-19
AJMC – Study Dispels Misinformation on Contact Lens, Spectacle Use and COVID-19