Experts say guarding your eyes, as well as your hands and mouth, can help slow the spread of coronavirus and Dr. Shofner agrees. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) offers helpful tips to limit eye exposure during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and five ways you can help yourself and others.
Tips to limit eye exposure:
- If someone talks or coughs, virus particles can spray from the mouth or nose into another person’s face. These droplets can be inhaled through your mouth or nose, but they can also enter through your eyes.
- People who have coronavirus can also spread the illness through their tears. Touching tears or a surface where tears have landed can be another portal to infection.
- Touching something that has the virus on it, like a table or doorknob, and then touching your eyes can also infect you.
Tips to help yourself and others:
- Avoid rubbing your eyes.
Sounds simple, but most all of us are guilty. While it can be hard to break this natural habit, doing so will lower your risk of infection. If you feel an urge to itch or rub your eye or even to adjust your glasses, use a tissue instead of your fingers. Dry eyes can lead to more rubbing, so consider adding moisturizing drops to your eye routine. If you must touch your eyes for any reason — even to administer eye medicine — wash your hands first with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- If you wear contact lenses, switch to glasses for a while.
Contact lens wearers touch their eyes more than the average person. Experts advise people that wear contacts should switch over to wearing their glasses. If you continue wearing contact lenses, follow these hygiene tips to limit your chances of infection.
- Wearing glasses may add a layer of protection.
Corrective lenses or sunglasses can shield your eyes from infected respiratory droplets. But they don’t provide 100% security. The virus can still reach your eyes from the exposed sides, tops and bottoms of your glasses. If you’re caring for a sick patient or potentially exposed person, safety goggles may offer a stronger defense.
- Stock up on eye medicine prescriptions if possible.
Experts advise patients to stock up on critical medications, so that you'll have enough to get by if you are quarantined or if supplies become limited during an outbreak. If your insurance allows you to get more than 1 month of essential eye medicine, such as glaucoma drops, you should do so. Ask your pharmacist or ophthalmologist for help if you have trouble getting approval from your insurance company. And as always, request a refill as soon as you're due.
- Expect changes to your routine eye exam and procedures.
If you’re due for an eye exam, you may be nervous about going to the doctor’s office. Ophthalmologists sit face-to-face with many patients daily. Don't be surprised if non-emergency surgeries and procedures are postponed. Even minor eye procedures could expose you or your doctor to the virus. Shofner Vision Center has asked patients to postpone regular eye exams and to call us immediately if you experience eye pain, sudden vision changes or an eye emergency situation.
Coronavirus may cause pink eye — but it’s rare
If you see someone with pink eye, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean that person is infected with coronavirus. But health officials believe viral pink eye, or conjunctivitis, develops in about 1% to 3% of people with coronavirus. The virus can spread by touching discharge from an infected person’s eyes.
We at Shofner Vision Center care about our patient’s health and safety, as well as our staff members. We have asked those with upcoming appointments, unless it’s urgent to reschedule at a later date. The COVID-19 is continually evolving on a daily basis. Should you have questions or any eye concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us online or at (615) 340-4733.