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Glasses might provide more protection against COVID-19 than contact lenses

Glasses provide an extra layer of protection, require less face toughing than contact lenses.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends limiting face touching. That can be difficult for those who wear contact lenses and who have to touch their face and eyes to wear them. 

The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests switching to glasses for a little while, to avoid touching your eyes. 

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"While people wearing masks can protect their nose and mouth," said Dr. Ronald Hessler, an ophthalmologist at Grand Rapids Ophthalmology, "it’s not providing any eye protection. So spectacles, glasses of any kind, are a barrier to virus particles landing on the eye."

Hessler said contacts can still be worn and safe, if users adhere to proper protocol. 

"Proper contact lens wear and care guides to wash your hands before handling contact lenses," said Hessler, "and we know hand washing for 20 full seconds with soap and water will eliminate this virus."

However, Hessler said if there is a choice, wearing glasses might be the better choice at the moment. 

Grand Rapids Ophthalmology is still open for emergent patients. Hessler said the call center is open, and can fill prescriptions. The doctors are rotating on a volunteer basis, so not too many people are in the clinic at one time. Doctors are wearing masks, limiting person-to-person interaction, and leaving the room to chart. It's all in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. 

"We’re limiting the patients we see," said Hessler, "to complaints of severe eye pain, sudden vision loss, flashes or floaters, which can indicate an acute retinal problem, and foreign objects in the eye."

The The American Academy of Ophthalmology also says pink eye can be a symptom of COVID-19. However, it's rare, and conjunctivitis develops in 1% to 3% of cases. It warns not to immediately think someone with pink eye has COVID-19. 

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