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COVID-19 Q&A

Q: Can COVID-19 be transmitted through the eyes?

A: Yes, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted through droplets landing on the surface of the eye from a carrier’s cough or sneeze. It is important to avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth as the virus can be transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces. In addition to washing your hands after visiting the toilet, it is important to wash your hands more often especially: when you get to work or your destination or arrive home, particularly if you use public transport; after you blow your nose, cough or sneeze; before you eat or handle food.

Q: Are contact lens wearers more at risk of infection when they insert and take out their lenses?

A: Thorough hand hygiene is always recommended when inserting and taking out contact lenses to maintain eye health. Where possible, we are advising contact lens wearers to wear glasses when outside of the home environment. Wearing glasses will decrease the urge to rub or touch the eyes. Glasses will not prevent infection but may act as a physical shield or defence from airborne water droplets from others’ coughs and sneezes.

Q: What would you recommend in terms of best practice for eye hygiene?

A: To clean your eyes safely: always wash and rinse your hands thoroughly, use an antibacterial eye cleansing wipe or gel, wipe your eyes from the inside edge to the outer edge of your eye, avoid cross contamination from one eye to another by using a single wipe, or fresh pump of gel per eye, avoid sharing eye cosmetics, regularly wash makeup brushes, dispose of out of date cosmetics, particularly those that are used on or around the eyes. As well as reducing the risk of infection, daily eyelid hygiene is essential to preventing ocular surface diseases such as dry eye, blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction.

Q: Is it safe to attend my appointment with my optometrist or optician?

A: If you are concerned about your appointment we advise that you check with your eye health professional prior to the appointment and discuss any worries you may have. If you have an emergent eye health issue that needs medical attention try to speak to your healthcare professional by phone in the first instance.

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Pink, Stinging Eyes?

Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is one of the most frequently seen eye diseases, especially in kids. It can be caused by viruses, bacteria or even allergies to pollen, chlorine in swimming pools, and ingredients in cosmetics, or other irritants, which touch the eyes. Some forms of conjunctivitis might be quite transmittable and quickly spread in school and at the office.

Conjunctivitis is seen when the conjunctiva, or thin transparent layer of tissue covering the white part of the eye, becomes inflamed. You can identify conjunctivitis if you notice eye redness, discharge, itching or swollen eyelids and a crusty discharge surrounding the eyes early in the day. Pink eye infections can be divided into three main types: viral, allergic and bacterial conjunctivitis.

The viral type is usually a result of a similar virus to that which produces the recognizable red, watery eyes, sore throat and runny nose of the common cold. The red, itchy, watery eyes caused by viral pink eye are likely to last from a week to two and then will clear up on their own. You may however, be able to reduce some of the discomfort by using soothing drops or compresses. Viral pink eye is transmittable until it is completely cleared up, so in the meantime maintain excellent hygiene, remove eye discharge and try to avoid using communal pillowcases or towels. If your son or daughter has viral conjunctivitis, he or she will have to be kept home from school for three days to a week until symptoms disappear.

A bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus or Streptococcus is usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or cream. One should notice an improvement within just a few days of antibiotic drops, but be sure to adhere to the full prescription dosage to prevent pink eye from recurring.

Allergic pink eye is not contagious. It is usually a result of a known allergy such as hay fever or pet allergies that sets off an allergic reaction in their eyes. First of all, to treat allergic pink eye, you should eliminate the irritant. Use cool compresses and artificial tears to relieve discomfort in mild cases. When the infection is more severe, your eye doctor might prescribe a medication such as an anti-inflammatory or antihistamine. In cases of chronic allergic pink eye, topical steroid eye drops could be used.

Pink eye should always be diagnosed by a qualified eye doctor in order to identify the type and best course of treatment. Never treat yourself! Keep in mind the sooner you begin treatment, the lower chance you have of giving pink eye to loved ones or prolonging your discomfort.