IACLE Position Statements

COVID-19 pandemic and contact lens use

The global outbreak of the Coronavirus disease COVID-19 has raised questions about the safety of contact lens wear during the pandemic, the precautions that patients should take when handling and wearing contact lenses, and what would constitute best clinical practice by eye care professionals.

Contact lens educators need to be prepared to answer these questions and provide reliable information. While reports in the literature on COVID-19 and contact lenses are still emerging, there are sensible precautions that patients and eye care professionals can adopt at this time.

With nearly 950 members in 79 countries, the International Association of Contact Lens Educators plays an important role in promoting the safe use of contact lenses worldwide. Here we summarize the key points and measures to consider based on current evidence.

Key Points

• There is currently no evidence to suggest an increased risk of contracting COVID-19 through contact lens wear compared to spectacle lens wear. 

• There is no evidence that contact lens wearers who are asymptomatic should cease contact lens wear due to an increased risk of developing COVID-19.

• Contact lens practitioners should remind patients of the key lens-care behaviours which will minimize the likelihood of infection or inflammatory events.

• Practitioners should consider how they can best continue to manage their contact lens patients if access to local clinical care has been reduced.

Measures for contact lens wearers

• All wearers: wash your hands thoroughly using soap and water for at least 20 seconds then dry with a paper towel, especially before every lens application and removal.  Avoid direct contact of water with your contact lenses.  

• All wearers: avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

• All wearers: dispose of your lenses to the recommended schedule (eg every day, every two weeks or every month).

• All wearers: discontinue wear if you are unwell, especially with any cold or flu-like symptoms.

• Users of reusable contact lenses: thoroughly clean and disinfect your lenses each day with the care products recommended by your contact lens practitioner.

• Users of reusable contact lenses: clean your storage case daily and replace regularly.

Measures for clinicians

• Follow the advice of your national regulatory body or professional organization.

• Reschedule non-urgent appointments.

• Reschedule new contact lens fitting appointments.

• Reduce physical contact with patients.

• Use approved personal protection equipment, as appropriate. 

• Disinfect contact lens equipment and trial sets.

• Emphasize the importance of hand hygiene and fully compliant lens wear.

• Monitor all staff for signs of the virus. 

• Maintain social distancing where possible.

• Consider new management strategies and referral pathways where clinical care provision is reduced.

• Actively minimize the impact on the wider healthcare service.

• Remain alert to new findings as they emerge.

Useful References

Fonn D and Jones L. Hand hygiene is linked to microbial keratitis and corneal inflammatory events. Cont Lens Anterior Eye 2020;42:2 132-135. 
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Lai THT, Tang EWH, Chau SKY, Fung KSC and Li KKW. Stepping up infection control measures in ophthalmology during the novel coronavirus outbreak: an experience from Hong Kong. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 2020 March 3. DOI: 10.1007/s00417-020-04641-8. [Epub ahead of print].
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Zeri F and Naroo SA. Contact lens practice in the time of COVID-19. Cont Lens Anterior Eye 2020 March 19. DOI: 10.1016/j.clae.2020.03.00. [Epub ahead of print].
Read the full text

Last updated 26 March 2020

Contact Lens Fitting and Supply

Contact lenses are enjoyed by over 180 million people worldwide and provide many potential benefits to users. However, regulations on contact lens fitting vary widely around the world. In some countries, legislation requires that contact lenses only be fitted by a suitably trained and/or qualified eye care practitioner or health professional, while in other countries fitting remains unregulated.

Supply of contact lenses also varies from country to country. Sales may be restricted to specified personnel, or be available via routes such as pharmacies, supermarkets and online suppliers, or from unregulated optical shops.

There is evidence that unregulated supply of contact lenses may result in the use of inappropriate lenses, increase the risk of poorer lens hygiene, and militate against the prompt treatment of any consequent complications.1

Wearers who buy contact lenses from sources other an eye or health care practitioner have been shown to be less likely to follow good eye care health practices or to attend for regular check-ups.2 The risk of developing a rare but serious eye infection related to contact lens wear is nearly 5X higher with internet purchase of contact lenses than when lenses are bought from a qualified professional.3

The International Association of Contact Lens Educators (IACLE) is the leading provider of educational and information resources essential to contact lens educators worldwide.

Our mission includes raising the standard of contact lens education throughout the world and promoting the safe use of contact lenses. With nearly 1,000 members in 74 countries, IACLE plays a key role in educating the eye care practitioners of the future. 

IACLE’s position is that whenever contact lenses are fitted and supplied, safeguards must be in place to help protect the health and comfort of wearers’ eyes.

The involvement of a trained professional in contact lens fitting and supply is important to the proper use of contact lenses worldwide. Instruction and advice on contact lens wear and care is an essential step in promoting safe use and helping wearers enjoy the many benefits of contact lenses.

The importance of regular check-ups to monitor eye health and compliance cannot be overemphasised.  Our view is that this is best achieved when a trained professional is involved in both fitting and supply of lenses, and is able to intervene when necessary.

Our position relates to any lens that comes into contact with the eye, including zero-powered cosmetic contact lenses designed to change or enhance the eye’s colour or appearance. These lenses require fitting, instruction and ongoing clinical care, just as with contact lenses that correct the wearer’s vision.

Problems with cosmetic contact lenses are generally associated with poor compliance and hygiene, and with unregulated lens sales.4 The introduction of regulations to control the supply of cosmetic lenses may alleviate the level of complications.1 

References 

  1. Young G, Young AG and Lakkis C. Review of complications associated with contact lenses from unregulated sources of supply. Eye Contact Lens 2014;40:1 58-64.
  2. Fogel J and Zidile C. Contact lenses purchased over the internet place individuals potentially at risk for harmful eye care practices. Optometry 2008;79:1 23-35.
  3. Stapleton F, Keay L, Edwards K et al. The incidence of contact lens-related microbial keratitis in Australia. Ophthalmology 2008;115:1655–1662.
  4. Steinemann TL, Pinninti U, Szczotka L et al. Ocular complications associated with the use of cosmetic contact lenses from unlicensed vendors. Eye Contact Lens 2003;29:4 196-200.

Last updated September 2015