Article

NO-FEE CE: KEY CONSIDERATIONS FOR CONTACT LENS PRACTITIONERS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

This course is COPE approved for 2 hours of CE credit.

COPE Course ID: 67976-PB

Expiration Date: April 29, 2023

LEARNING METHOD AND MEDIUM

This educational activity consists of a written article and 20 study questions. The participant should, in order, read the Activity Description listed at the beginning of this activity, read the material, and then go to clspectrumce.com and complete the post test.

To receive credit for this activity, please follow the instructions provided below in the section titled To Obtain CE Credit. This educational activity should take a maximum of 2 hours to complete.

CONTENT SOURCE

This continuing education (CE) activity captures key statistics and insights from contributing faculty.

ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION

The goal of this article is to provide an evidence-based review of considerations for contact lens wearers during the coronavirus pandemic.

TARGET AUDIENCE

This educational activity is intended for optometrists, contact lens specialists, and other eyecare professionals.

ACCREDITATION DESIGNATION STATEMENT

This course is COPE approved for 2 hours of CE credit.

COPE Course ID: 67976-PB

DISCLOSURES

Lyndon Jones, PhD, DSc, FCOptom, FAAO, has received research funding and honorarium from Alcon, CooperVision, Johnson & Johnson Vision, Santen, and Shire; research funding from Allergan, GL Chemtech, I-Med Pharma, Lubris, Menicon, Nature’s Way, Novartis, Ote, PS Therapy, Safilens, SightGlass, and Visu. He is also on the advisory boards of Alcon, CooperVision, Johnson & Johnson Vision, Novartis, Ophtecs, and Visioneering.

Karen Walsh, BSc, MCOptom, PGDip, has received honorarium from Alcon, Aequus Pharmaceuticals, CooperVision, and Johnson & Johnson Vision.

Mark Willcox, PhD, DSc, FAAO, has received research funding from Alcon Australia and Allergan, research funding and honorarium from Johnson & Johnson Vision, and training funds and a consulting fee from Ophtecs Corps.

Philip Morgan, PhD, MCOptom, FAAO, has received research funding and honorarium from Alcon, CooperVision, and Johnson & Johnson Vision and research funding from Menicon.

Jason Nichols, OD, MPH, PhD, has received honorarium from Alcon, Bruder Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson Vision, Olympic Ophthalmics, Paragon Vision Sciences, and Shire.

DISCLOSURE ATTESTATION

The contributing faculty members have attested to the following:

  1. That the relationships/affiliations noted will not bias or otherwise influence their involvement in this activity;
  2. That practice recommendations given relevant to the companies with whom they have relationships/affiliations will be supported by the best available evidence or, absent evidence, will be consistent with generally accepted medical practice;
  3. That all reasonable clinical alternatives will be discussed when making recommendations.

TO OBTAIN CE CREDIT

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Upon passing the test, you will immediately receive a printable PDF version of your course certificate for COPE credit. On the last day of the month, all course results will be forwarded to ARBO with your OE tracker number, and your records will be updated. You must score 70% or higher to receive credit for this activity. Please make sure you take the online post test and evaluation on a device that has printing capabilities.

NO-FEE CONTINUING EDUCATION

There are no fees for participating in and receiving credit for this activity.

DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed in this educational activity are those of the faculty and do not necessarily represent the views of Illinois College of Optometry or Contact Lens Spectrum. This CE activity is copyrighted to PentaVision LLC ©2020. All rights reserved.

This CE activity is supported by unrestricted grants from CooperVision and Johnson & Johnson Vision.

EXPIRATION DATE: April 29, 2023

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A Note from the Authors

These are extraordinary times. The novel coronavirus outbreak, declared a pandemic in March 2020, has impacted almost every aspect of day-to-day living. Within the eyecare profession, there is a specific need for clear, evidence-based information regarding how the virus interacts with the eyes. Rumors and misinformation about the risks of contracting COVID-19 via contact lenses and spectacle wear abound. This is the time for facts. An extensive review of the relevant issues has recently been published in the Journal of the British Contact Lens Association (BCLA), Contact Lens and Anterior Eye (CLAE).1 Recognizing the need to share the review with as wide an audience as possible, the full paper is available to read and download for free. CLAE’s publishers have also granted permission to adapt and summarize the paper directly into a distance learning module, near-simultaneous publication of which is being supported by both Optician (UK) and Contact Lens Spectrum (US). We acknowledge the support of the respective publishing companies for their willingness to move quickly on making this review available and their flexibility in sharing this content widely.

A novel coronavirus (CoV), the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), results in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the rapid spread of cases of COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. The global response to COVID-19 has resulted in substantial changes to business and social practices around the world. With concerns existing around the pandemic, many reports relating to how to best limit the chance of infection have been shared via various news outlets and on social media, with significant amounts of misinformation and speculation being reported.1 Among these, recent rumors have circulated stating that contact lens wear is unsafe, that wearers of contact lenses are more at risk of developing COVID-19, that certain contact lens materials are more “risky” compared with others, and that contact lens wearers should immediately revert to spectacle wear to protect themselves. How true are these statements, and are they supported by evidence? Importantly, are contact lens wearers increasing their risk of contracting COVID-19 by wearing contact lenses? Furthermore, what are the ramifications of a potential reduction in the availability of local ophthalmic care for contact lens wearers during this pandemic?

CORONAVIRUS

Before answering these questions, it first is important to review the known structural biology and pathophysiological mechanism of an infection caused by SARS-CoV-2. All CoVs contain ribonucleic acid (RNA) as their genetic material, which is surrounded by a protein shell called a nucleocapsid. Like other CoVs, SARs-CoV-2 is an enveloped virus, meaning that its nucleocapsid is surrounded by a lipid bilayer. SARs-CoV-2 has three proteins that are anchored into and protrude from the envelope, including spike proteins.2 These proteins form the corona that can be seen by electron microscopy and that gives the name to the CoVs (Figure 1). The spike proteins are glycoproteins that have high affinities for angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), a component of the renin-angiotensin system found in many human tissues.3 This affinity is believed to allow entry of the virus into host cells where the virus releases its RNA, leading to viral replication and further infection.

Figure 1. Graphic representation of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SAR-CoV-2).
peterschreiber.media/stock.adobe.com

CORONAVIRUS AND CONTACT LENS WEAR

Coronaviruses are capable of producing a wide spectrum of ocular disease, including anterior segment diseases, such as conjunctivitis and anterior uveitis, as well as posterior segment conditions, such as retinitis and optic neuritis.4 While these ocular manifestations are possible for someone who has been infected with the virus, what is known about the potential for transmission of the virus via the eyes, or indeed whether contact lens wear increases risk?

A PubMed search on April 5, 2020 found no evidence that contact lens wearers are more likely to contract COVID-19 compared with spectacle wearers. The likely belief for this concern relates to the fact that SARS-CoV-2 has been isolated in tears, albeit infrequently,5 and also that the virus is known to be transferred by hand contact, and thus could be transferred to contact lenses during their application and removal. In one report, positive tear and conjunctival secretions occurred in a single patient who developed conjunctivitis from a cohort of 30 patients who had novel CoV pneumonia.5 In another report,6 64 samples of the tear film from 17 patients who had COVID-19 showed no evidence of SARS-CoV-2 by viral culture or reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Further, the frequency of conjunctivitis in patients who have COVID-19 reported to date is low, at < 3%,5, 7 although it has been suggested that CoVs could possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with the conjunctiva in patients who have active disease.5,7-11 However, the question of whether COVID-19 can occur through conjunctival exposure remains unknown.12 Recent papers concluded that “The eye is rarely involved by human CoV infection, nor is it a preferred gateway of entry for human CoVs to infect the respiratory tract”13 and that “The results from this study suggests that the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission through tears is low.”6 Thus, to date, there are no findings to support concerns that healthy patients are more at risk of contracting COVID-19 if they are contact lens wearers.

It could be argued that COVID-19 is so new that such data would not yet exist. However, the lack of evidence from previous outbreaks of coronavirus disease, including SARS in 2002 to 2003, suggests that the risk of developing COVID-19 from contact lens wear is low. It is informative to consider viral diseases that are transmitted by direct contact and which could be used as a surrogate for evaluating the risks of COVID-19 in contact lens wearers. One such example is epidemic keratoconjunctivitis (EKC), caused by the non-enveloped DNA virus adenovirus. This disease is highly contagious, spreads rapidly through direct contact, accounts for 65% to 90% of viral conjunctivitis cases,14 and has been implicated in actively transmitted disease in eyecare clinics and in other common healthcare settings where there is close contact between healthcare providers and patients.15-19 However, a review of the literature appears to show no increased risk for EKC in those wearing contact lenses versus non-lens wearers, with a reported frequency of 3% to 15% in contact lens wearers.18,20

SARS-CoV-2 spreads primarily via person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.21,22 However, it also could be spread if people touch an object or surface that has virus present from an infected person and then touch mucosal surfaces, such as their mouth, nose, or eyes.22,24 Given that contact lens wearers must touch their eyes when applying and removing their contact lenses, it is understandable that this has been raised as a potential concern for increasing their risk of exposure to the virus. The consistent, unambiguous advice to protect individuals from the virus is to employ frequent handwashing with soap and water. The lipid envelope of the virus can be emulsified by surfactants such as those found in simple soap, which kills the virus.22,25 Best-practice advice for contact lens wearers includes the same instructions that should be imparted under all situations, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When using contact lenses, careful and thorough handwashing with soap and water followed by hand drying with unused paper towels is paramount. For contact lens wearers, this should occur before every contact lens application and removal; this process reduces the risks of infection and inflammatory responses and is highly effective.26 It follows that as long as contact lens wearers are using correct hand hygiene techniques, they should be limiting any virus transmission to their ocular surface, and indeed, as already stated, there is currently no evidence that they are at any higher risk of developing COVID-19 infection compared with non-wearers.

A further consideration is the length of time that the virus is viable on different surfaces, and in turn, the potential for it to bind to contact lens materials. Addressing the former, a recent study showed that the aerosol and surface stability of both SARS-CoV-2 and its predecessor, SARS-CoV-1 (the viral strain associated with the prior SARS epidemic) were similar.27 Specifically, both viruses could be detected in aerosols for up to three hours, on cardboard for 24 hours, and on plastic and stainless steel for two to three days. The persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces, such as plastic and silicone rubber surfaces, has recently been published as a review, although the studies did not include SARS-CoV-2.28 To date, no studies have addressed whether SARS-CoV-2 binds to contact lens materials of any type, and thus no knowledge exists as to whether there are differences between contemporary materials, such as hydrogel and silicone hydrogel, or whether different periods of replacement have any impact.

A final consideration is that of contact lens disinfection. To date, no evidence exists of the ability of currently marketed contact lens solutions to disinfect SARS-CoV-2, and evidence concerning the ability of contemporary care solutions to disinfect viruses remains equivocal.29,30 Stretching back more than 30 years, lens care systems have been shown to be effective at inactivating both herpes simplex and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV),31,32 particularly when a rub step was included,33 and a rub-and-rinse step has been found to more effectively remove virus from contact lenses compared with when no rubbing occurred.30 A recent paper showed that benzalkonium chloride could slow or halt adenovirus.34 Most modern lens care systems include a surfactant,35 and given that SARS-CoV-2 has a lipid envelope, it is plausible that a rub-and-rinse of the lens with such a care system may well be effective at killing the virus, but further work in this area is required to confirm this. Inactivation of coronaviruses by various biocidal agents, including some found in lens disinfecting solutions, has been investigated. Significant reductions, > 4log10, in human coronavirus were seen in 60 seconds or less for both 0.5% hydrogen peroxide and 0.23% povidone iodine, both being used at notably lower concentrations than that found in modern contact lens disinfection systems.28

CORONAVIRUS AND SPECTACLE LENS WEAR

Recent news reports have made suggestions about spectacles, including that they can provide some protection against the virus and that they reduce the number of times that people touch their face compared with contact lenses. What does the published evidence to date tell us about this issue?

A systematic review of the literature shows no scientific evidence that wearing spectacles provides protection against SARS-CoV-2 or other viral transmissions, although this concept has been recently proposed in the media.36-38 This belief about the safety of spectacles likely exists because of the guidance to use approved personal protective eyewear (i.e., medical masks, goggles, or face shields) in certain settings involved in the care of infected patients.39 However, these goggles and shields provide very different protection from that afforded by standard spectacles, a difference recognized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which states that “personal eyeglasses and contact lenses are NOT considered adequate eye protection.”40

Despite the CDC’s clear delineation between standard spectacles and approved personal protective eyewear, it is understandable that a misplaced belief still exists for spectacles being preferable to contact lenses. There are a number of confounding factors, however, which do not support this theory. First, consider part-time wearers of spectacles who use their spectacles only for occasional distance use or for reading. Their assumed “protection” is intermittent, and additionally, their increased frequency of putting on and removing their spectacles adds to the potential of touching their face each time, possibly in the absence of handwashing. Another point to consider is that some viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, can remain on hard plastic surfaces (similar to those found in spectacle frames and lenses) for hours to days.28,41-43

Upon touching their spectacles, any virus particles could be transferred to the wearers’ fingers and face, and thus adequate hand hygiene practices should also extend to the regular handling of spectacle and sunglass frames to prevent transmission of viral particles to the fingers and subsequently to the face. Spectacles should be regularly cleaned with soap and water and dried with a paper towel to remove any adhered viral particles. However, given that this is relatively new advice, without education it is currently unlikely that spectacle wearers would adhere to such a process.

THE IMPORTANCE OF HAND HYGIENE

Outside of contact lens and spectacle wear, how often do people touch their face in general, and what is the best advice to give them?

Hands are a common vector for the transmission of respiratory infections.44 An observational study of medical students examined the frequency with which they touched their face.45 On average, each of the students touched his or her face 23 times per hour. Of all face touches, 44% involved contact with a mucous membrane (eyes, nose, or mouth) versus 56% that involved contact with non-mucosal areas (ears, cheeks, chin, forehead, or ear). Of the mucous membrane touches, 36% involved the mouth, 31% the nose, 27% the eyes, and 6% were a combination of these regions. Given this very high number of face touches, handwashing becomes extremely important as a method to prevent transmission of any pathogenic organism from the fingers to the mucous membranes of the face. In relation to COVID-19, this advice, as recommended by the WHO and the CDC, applies to everyone whether they use contact lenses, spectacles, or no vision correction at all.

In addition to commons soaps used in handwashing, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is very likely susceptible to the same alcohol- and bleach-based disinfectants that eyecare professionals commonly use to disinfect ophthalmic instruments and office furniture.28 To prevent SARS-CoV-2 transmission, the same disinfection practices already used to prevent office-based spread of other viral pathogens are recommended before and after every patient encounter. Many of these steps have been summarized in a recent editorial that covers a number of important considerations for conducting safe clinical practice during the pandemic.46

The CDC and the WHO recommend that people clean their hands often to reduce their risk of contracting the virus. Specifically, they advise all people to:

  • Wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after they have been in a public place or after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, they should use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. They should cover all surfaces of their hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • They should avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

ACCESS TO CLINICAL CARE AND CONSIDERATIONS FOR CONTACT LENS WEAR DURING THE PANDEMIC

Evidence suggests that the safety of contact lens wear has not altered due to the pandemic and that appropriate hygiene considerations for contact lens wear and care should be the same as those always recommended. However, given that access to routine and emergency eye care may be substantially different during the pandemic, what should ECPs bear in mind when discussing contact lens wear with their patients?

A key consideration is for practitioners to be cognizant of local clinical care facilities during the course of the pandemic and to act to minimize the impact of lens-related adverse events on the wider healthcare system, which may be stretched as staff are moved from providing ophthalmic care to other areas more directly related to COVID-19 patients. The implications here will necessarily vary according to local and regional considerations. Routine eye care has been suspended in many countries, with optometric practices moving to provide emergency services only.

In the UK, practitioners should work to manage cases within an optometric framework rather than refer into the National Health Service when possible. This could include telephone contact with patients reporting contact lens problems and/or a video consultation to enable rapid triage and management, reducing the need for burdening other clinical colleagues in general practice or hospital settings. Some cases may be best managed by referral to optometric colleagues licensed to practice as Independent Prescribers (therapeutically qualified optometrists). In other cases, local Minor Eye Conditions Services may be an alterative care pathway. Under this service, patients are sent to local optometrists who have undergone accredited training in advanced optometric care and can determine whether referral to ophthalmology is required and, where possible and within their scope of practice, treat minor eye conditions. It is imperative that ECPs avail themselves of the relevant options as early as possible to act quickly in the interests of both their patients and the wider healthcare system; they should not begin to investigate the possibilities only after a lens wearer reports having some form of adverse event.

In North America and several countries, therapeutically trained optometrists are more likely to be the first port of call for contact lens patients who have clinical adverse events, although again, most authorities have required deferral of non-emergent, routine care. Here also, appropriate pathways need to be considered and enacted where a reduced level of routine eye care is available. In countries where contact lens fitters and practitioners are less likely to offer clinical care to patients who have clinically significant adverse events, management pathways and advice should again be considered to minimize the impact on the wider healthcare system.

It is particularly imperative during the ongoing pandemic that practitioners redouble their efforts to provide clinical advice to their patients to minimize contact lens complications, not least because many parts of the world are in forms of “lockdown” and so even leaving home to seek attention may not be straightforward. The simplest approach, as recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, would be to cease contact lens wear and return to spectacles during this time.47 However, given the personal motivation that individuals may have for wearing contact lenses, or indeed for those wearing contact lenses for a clinical reason (keratoconus, for example), this suggestion is likely not practical for many contact lens wearers. In the UK, the General Optical Council has taken a pragmatic approach to contact lens wear and supply during the pandemic. Recognizing the highly challenging circumstances and the need to depart from established procedures,48 it has offered guidance enabling practitioners to exercise professional judgement on continuing supplies of contact lenses following remote consultation, even in the case of an expired specification.48 This action should significantly reduce any temptation from patients to use lenses beyond the recommended replacement interval. Practitioners should also act to ensure that patients receive a supply of their prescribed lens type and communicate this appropriately to dissuade patients from sourcing alternative (non-prescribed) lens brands via online lens retailers. In the US, the American Optometric Association notes that patients should contact their ECP if their lens prescription is nearing expiration but goes on to mention that no federal rules relating to the Contact Lens Rule prescription verification process have been suspended or waived.49

It is important to remember that by any absolute measure, contact lens wear is a safe form of vision correction for millions of people around the world. A review of 1,276 soft contact lens wearers’ records across 4,120 visits indicated that 82% presented with no complications during the observation period of more than two years.50 The frequency of more significant complications, such as corneal infiltrative events (CIEs) and microbial keratitis, are well understood. The annual incidence of symptomatic CIEs in daily reusable soft lens wear is around 3%, and it is nearly 0% in daily disposable wear.51 The incidence of symptomatic CIEs in extended wear is higher, with a 2x to 7x increased risk compared with daily wear.52-54 Annual incidence of microbial keratitis (MK) varies by modality and is around two per 10,000 wearers with daily wear of soft lenses,55,56 increasing to around 20 per 10,000 wearers in extended soft lens wear, irrespective of material type.55,57-59

CONSIDERATIONS FOR ADVISING CONTACT LENS WEARERS

What steps can ECPs take to further support their contact lens wearers during the pandemic?

The risk factors that result in CIEs and MK are well understood. The relative risks of developing CIEs are summarized in the comprehensive review by Steele and Szczotka-Flynn60 and include non-modifiable factors, such as younger age (1.75x to 2.61x), higher prescription (≥ 5D) (1.21x to 1.6x), and history of a previous event (2.5x to 6.1x), along with modifiable risks, such as overnight wear (2.5x to 7x), bacterial bioburden on the lens and lid margins (5x to 8x), and lens replacement schedule—reusable compared to daily disposable (12.5x). MK is associated with many similar factors, including overnight wear55,58,59 and, for daily wear, poor lens and storage case hygiene, infrequent lens case replacement, exposure to water, and smoking.61,62 Risk factors for MK in daily disposable wearers are more frequent use, any overnight wear, less frequent handwashing, and smoking.63 While it is not possible to change a non-modifiable risk factor such as the age of a patient, there are significant opportunities to address modifiable behaviors (Table 1). Given the reduced incidence of CIEs in wearers of daily disposable lenses,50,51 this form of lens wear seems ideal in a time of reduced clinical provision. Some patients hold supplies of both reusable and daily disposable contact lenses, with the latter normally used for sports or holidays. With appropriate practitioner discussion, a move to using daily disposable lenses could be considered at the current time.

TABLE 1 MODIFIABLE RISK FACTORS TO CONSIDER FOR PATIENTS TO HELP THEM REDUCE THE CHANCE OF CONTACT LENS COMPLICATIONS





HYGIENE
FACTORS DAILY DISPOSABLE WEARERS REUSABLE WEARERS
Handwashing Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water, and dry before every lens application and removal
Face touches Avoid touching face with unwashed hands. Common-sense advice that applies to all contact lens wearers, spectacle wearers, and emmetropes
Spectacles Regularly clean spectacle frames and lenses with soap and water








LENS WEAR & CARE
Replacing lenses correctly Dispose of lenses after each wear, and ensure resupply available to discourage reuse Ensure resupply available to encourage disposal at correct time, typically every 2 or 4 weeks
Replacing care solution and lens case regularly _ Remind patients of the importance of replacing solution and lens case regularly
Cleaning _ Correct use of prescribed care regimen, including rub and rinse with MPS, plus case cleaning and drying after each use
Lens modality _ Consider use of daily disposables during this period IF patients have access to both and ONLY after consultation with an ECP
Overnight wear Reminders to avoid accidental overnight wear of lenses Reminders to avoid accidental overnight wear. Planned extended wear could consider resuming daily wear ONLY after consultation with ECP and if access to correct cleaning and storage items



SAFE PRACTICES
Water avoidance Remind wearers of the importance of avoiding contact with water
Lid hygiene If prone to blepharitis, a reminder to continue regular lid hygiene measures (if access to proprietary lid care products)
Cease wear when unwell Remind wearers to cease lens wear if feeling unwell, resuming with fresh lenses (and case) once healthy

Ceasing planned or accidental overnight wear significantly lowers the risk of contact lens complications. Some patients may principally use their lenses on an extended wear basis for occupational reasons, and the same benefits may no longer be present if they are currently working from home. In such situations, reverting to a daily wear schedule could be merited, but only if patients have an appropriate care regimen and are suitably compliant in its correct use. In the same way, patients who habitually alter from daily wear to extended wear (for work or other reasons) could be advised to adopt a routine daily wear modality until normal clinical provision is available. Such changes to contact lens wearing schedules should be undertaken only after consultation between patient and practitioner.

Scrupulous hand hygiene along with correct use of care solutions, including multipurpose solutions with appropriate rub and rinse cleaning of reusable lenses, daily case cleaning, and regular replacement of the lens case, are all positive changes about which ECPs should remind their patients at the current time. Likewise, an important point is to counsel on the avoidance of contact with water to reduce the risk of microbial keratitis, especially Acanthamoeba keratitis.64,65 Finally, and consistent with general advice, when a patient is unwell, particularly with an upper respiratory tract infection, this is the time to cease wearing contact lenses and to return to spectacles. Contact lens wear can be resumed, with a fresh pair of lenses, and, if used, a fresh contact lens case, when they feel well again.

Adherence to compliant lens wear and care practices is an important aim all of the time; however, during the current outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 this should be an area of heightened focus. The attention on thorough handwashing is welcome and an important start, but for ECPs it is reasonable to use this time to go much further, revisiting patient education on safe wear and care practices with the aim of reducing the chance of developing contact-lens-related complications requiring clinical care. Distilled from the evidence reviewed in the full paper,1 there are five key points that may be useful to communicate to patients (Table 2). In addition, practitioners are advised to seek resources on patient-facing information to help remind them of safe wear and care practices, some of which can be found in a previous article in Contact Lens Spectrum,66 and in the UK, the BCLA has provided advice for practitioners and lens wearers.67 Information is also available through a number of professional organizations and contact lens manufacturers, with free downloadable content, including a handout with five tips related to COVID-19 and contact lens wearers, on the Centre for Ocular Research and Education’s Contact Lens Update website.

TABLE 2 FIVE USEFUL FACTS TO COMMUNICATE TO CONTACT LENS AND SPECTACLE WEARERS
1) PEOPLE 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 spectacles wearers. Patients should consult their eyecare practitioners with questions.
2) GOOD HYGIENE HABITS ARE CRITICAL Thorough handwashing and drying are essential, as are properly wearing and caring for contact lenses, ensuring good contact lens case hygiene, and regularly cleaning spectacles with soap and water. These habits will help wearers stay healthy and out of their ECP’s office or the hospital, thereby minimizing impacts on the wider healthcare system.
3) REGULAR SPECTACLES DO NOT PROVIDE PROTECTION No scientific evidence supports rumors that everyday spectacles offer protection against COVID-19, a position supported by the CDC, which points out that they do not qualify as personal protective equipment (PPE).
4) KEEP UNWASHED HANDS AWAY FROM THE FACE Whether people wear contact lenses or spectacles, or require no vision correction at all, individuals should avoid touching their nose, mouth, and eyes with unwashed hands, consistent with WHO and CDC recommendations.
5) IF YOU ARE SICK, TEMPORARILY STOP WEARING CONTACT LENSES Contact lens wearers who are ill should temporarily revert to wearing spectacles. They can resume use with fresh, new contact lenses and lens cases once they return to full health.

CONCLUSIONS

In conclusion, to date no evidence suggests that contact lens wearers who are asymptomatic should cease contact lens wear due to an increased risk of developing COVID-19; advice which has been recently echoed by the CDC.68 There is no evidence that wearing spectacles provides protection or that any form of lens material is more likely to enhance or reduce the risk of future COVID-19 infection. However, information concerning this novel coronavirus is evolving at a rapid rate, and ECPs must remain attentive to new findings as they emerge.

Practitioners must remain vigilant about reminding contact lens wearers of the need to maintain good hand hygiene practices when handling lenses. A focus on fully compliant contact lens wear and especially on the modifiable risk factors associated with contact lens complications are important during the height of the pandemic, during which access to primary and secondary eye care may be substantially different from normal, and practitioners should act to minimize the burden on the wider healthcare system by considering their local clinical pathway options. Patients must be reminded of the need to dispose of daily disposable lenses upon removal, the need for appropriate disinfection with reusable lenses, including the use of a rub-and-rinse step where indicated, and appropriate case cleaning and replacement.

Finally, consistent with guidance for other types of illness, particularly those of the respiratory tract, no contact lens wearers who have active COVID-19 should continue wearing their contact lenses. This is the time to cease contact lens wear and revert to spectacles.

For references, please visit www.clspectrum.com/references and click on document #295.

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