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Seeing Clearly to Healthy Eyes

Posted by By Andrew C. Brown, MD
Chief of Ophthalmology, Holy Name Medical Center, on June 17, 2020

Chief of Ophthalmology, Holy Name Medical Center

Eye hygiene is important as we keep ourselves safe from the coronavirus.

The virus is most likely transmitted by airborne droplets that enter through the mouth or nose, and face masks have been recommended as a frontline protection. But the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread through contact with any mucous membrane, including the conjunctiva that covers part of the front of the eye and the inner eyelids. Studies also are underway to examine transmission of the virus through tears.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stopped short of recommending goggles or other eye protection for the general public, but it is prudent to practice good eye hygiene.

Hands off Your Eyes

As much as possible, refrain from touching your eyes and make sure your hands are washed thoroughly. The coronavirus crisis has shown most of us just how much we touched our faces – and our glasses! These are hard habits to break, but are important in lowering our risk of infection.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests using a tissue instead of your fingers if touching your eyes or glasses. If you must touch your eyes for any reason — such as administering eye drops — wash your hands first with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Then wash them again after touching your eyes.

Those who wear contact lenses may want to consider switching to glasses for now. There's no evidence that wearing contact lenses increases your risk of coronavirus infection, but contact-lens wearers generally touch their eyes more often. Follow the strict hygiene protocols outlined by your eye doctor if you continue to wear contacts.

Glasses can provide the added benefit of partially shielding eyes from respiratory droplets although they are not as effective as safety goggles or shields worn by medical professionals and those caring for the sick.

Is pink eye a symptom of COVID-19?

Pink eye or conjunctivitis, has shown up as a symptom in a small number cases of COVID-19, which is primarily a respiratory disease. Don’t panic if you contract pink eye, which is fairly common, particularly absent other symptoms of COVID-19. Call your eye doctor and you may be able to obtain a telemedicine appointment, if needed. Whether caused by a virus or bacteria, pink eye can easily spread. Again, wash hands frequently and don't share towels, glasses, cups or utensils.

And be careful of your eyes in wearing your face masks! Those riding too high can irritate the eye and even scratch the cornea, and we’ve seen cases of patients snapping themselves in the eye with elastics from the masks.

Coronavirus has heightened our awareness about the spread of infection; healthy habits can reduce risk.

Dr. Brown is board-certified by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and has an office in Teaneck. He is currently seeing patients in person, depending on their eye issue, or via telemedicine.
Call 201-833-0006 to make an appointment.