WEST DES MOINES, Iowa – Health officials are warning people not to touch their mouth, nose, and eyes with unwashed hands to prevent themselves from getting the coronavirus. Despite how often contact lens wearers touch their eyes, a local optometrist says it’s still safe to wear them.
Elite Eye Care optometrist Dr. Kelsey Sawatsky says as long as contact lens wearers’ hands are clean before putting them in or taking them out, it’s just as safe as wearing glasses in the midst of the virus outbreak.
Dr. Sawatsky says there is not enough evidence that suggests eyeglasses prevent particles or droplets from getting into the eyes causing infection. She warns if the eyes itch, burn or become red when wearing contacts to take them out immediately or if you are experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms. Experts say eye health can determine a lot about your overall physical health.
“Pink eye is conjunctivitis and viral conjunctivitis can come from any respiratory viral infection so even the common cold or flu can transfer up to the eyes. Any respiratory illness can affect the eyes and cause pink eye and the same with COVID–19, it can still present itself as pink eye,” she says.
Dr. Sawatsky adds if contact lens wearers choose to use their lenses, they shouldn’t wear them longer than their recommended wear time. She says local eye doctors are doing their best to accommodate patients who may be running low on lenses.
“This is a time when a lot of optometrists are closed and you may not be getting extra contacts but most doctors are good about ordering you an extra box of contact lenses and shipping those to you so that you don’t have to stretch the use of your contact lenses at this time.”
Optometrists are not considered essential businesses and are closed to the public with the exception of emergency situations. Elite Eye Care says it has begun experimenting with telehealth options but admit it’s a process of trial and error.
“So much of an eye-exam is up close it’s nice to have the telehealth platform because we can still ask questions, see them face to face and can gather some good information especially with the quality of videos and pictures but some of that is lost in telehealth but we are trying the best we can to see those patients as needed,” said Dr. Sawatsky.
Non–essential businesses are ordered to remain closed until April 30th per Governor Kim Reynold’s emergency disaster proclamation.