COVID-19: Do contacts pose a risk?

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - The CDC reports an estimated 45 million people wear contact lenses, and if you are one of them, health experts say you might want to consider putting on your glasses instead.

Though rare - doctors say it is possible to contract the coronavirus through your eyes.

Ophthalmologist Dr. William Hart said because of the thin transparent soft tissue coating your eyes, the eye is a potential point of entry for the coronavirus.

“The virus has an oily outer layer, this one, COVID-19, so it can reside on the oil on your skin but not penetrate your skin," Hart said. "But the soft tissue on your eyes is a mucus membrane just as the nose and throat are covered by a mucus membrane.”

Touching and rubbing your eyes can transfer the virus, especially if you didn’t properly wash your hands beforehand.

There is a higher risk of transferring the virus since, due to the nature of contacts, touching your eyes becomes inevitable.

“The contact lens itself has nothing to do with the virus," Hart said. "The contact lens becomes covered with the oily layer that your eyelids produce, the oil and protein layer, so then the COVID virus can reside there.”

Handling and cleaning your contacts properly is vital in not transferring the virus.

“There’s a recommended product [Clean Care], which uses Hydrogen Peroxide 3% which has been showed to denature the proteins of the virus," Hart said. “Wash your hands, put the contact in your hands and rinse it off with this stuff here [regular contact solution] which leaves a little layer of protective material on the contact, and then with your clean hands, put it in your eyes.”

If you have glasses, Dr. Hart recommends wearing them, if you can.

“If you have glasses that would be preferable for two reasons, you’re not handling your eye and the glasses actually prevent a shield to droplets," Hart said.

Dr. Hart said pink eye is now listed as a potential symptom of the coronavirus.

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