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Coronavirus and Your Eyes – What You Should Know

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As coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads around the world, health professionals are demanding that people limit their personal risk of contracting the virus by thoroughly washing their hands, practicing social distancing, and not touching their nose, mouth, or eyes. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that the eyes play an important role in spreading COVID-19. 

Coronavirus is transmitted from person to person through droplets that an infected person sneezes or coughs out. These droplets can easily enter your body through the mucous membranes on the face, such as your nose, mouth, and yes — your eyes. 

But First, What Is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, causes mild to severe respiratory illness associated with fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Symptoms typically appear within 2 weeks of exposure. Those with acute cases of the virus can develop pneumonia and other life-threatening complications. 

Here's what you should know: 

Guard Your Eyes Against COVID-19 

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes. Although we all engage in this very normal habit, try to fight the urge to touch your eyes. If you absolutely must, first wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. 
  • Tears carry the virus. Touching tears or a surface where tears have fallen can spread coronavirus. Make sure to wash your hands after touching your eyes and throughout the day as well.
  • Disinfect surfaces. You can catch COVID-19 by touching an object or surface that has the virus on it, such as a door knob, and then touching your eyes. 

Coronavirus and Pink Eye

Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, refers to an inflammation of the membrane covering the front of the eyeball. Conjunctivitis is characterized by red, watery, and itchy eyes. Viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious and can be spread by coughing and sneezing, too.

According to a recent study in China, viral conjunctivitis may be a symptom of COVID-19. The study found conjunctival congestion in 9 of the 1,099 patients (0.8%) who were confirmed to have coronavirus. 

If you suspect you have pink eye, call your eye doctor in St. Louis right away. Given the current coronavirus crisis, we ask patients to call prior to presenting themselves at the office of Dr. Brawley, as it will allow the staff to assess your condition and adequately prepare for your visit.

Contact Lenses or Eyeglasses?

Many people who wear contact lenses are thinking about switching to eyeglasses for the time being to lower the threat of being infected with coronavirus.

Wearing glasses may provide an extra layer of protection if someone coughs on you; hopefully that infected droplet will hit the lens and not your eye. However, one must still be cautious, as the virus can reach the eyes from the exposed sides, tops and bottoms around your frames. Unlike specialized safety goggles, glasses are not considered a safe way to prevent coronavirus.

Contact Lenses and COVID-19

If you wear contacts, make sure to properly wash your hands prior to removing or inserting them. Consider ordering a 3 to 6 month supply of contact lenses and solution; some opticals provide home delivery of contact lenses and solutions. At this stage there is no recommendation to wear daily lenses over monthlies.

Don't switch your contact lens brand or solution, unless approved by your optometrist or optician.

Regularly Disinfect Glasses 

Some viruses such as coronavirus, can remain on hard surfaces from several hours to days. This can then be transmitted to the wearer's fingers and face. People who wear reading glasses for presbyopia should be even more careful, because they usually need to handle their glasses more often throughout the day, and older individuals tend to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 complications. Gently wash the lenses and frames with warm water and soap, and dry your eyeglasses using a microfiber cloth. 

Stock up on Eye Medicine

It's a good idea to stock up on important medications, including eye meds, in order to get by in case you need to be quarantined or if supplies run short. This may not be possible for everyone due to insurance limitations. If you cannot stock up, make sure to request a refill as soon as you're due and never wait until the last minute to contact your pharmacy. 

It is important that you continue to follow your doctor’s instructions for all medications.

Digital Devices and Eyestrain

At times like this, people tend to use digital devices more than usual. Take note of tiredness, sore eyes, blurry vision, double vision or headaches, which are symptoms of computer vision syndrome if they are exacerbated by extensive use of digital devices, and might indicate a need for a new prescription in the near future. This usually isn't urgent, but if you're unsure, you can call our eye doctor's office.

Children and Digital Devices

During this time your children may end up watching TV and using computers, tablets and smartphones more frequently and for more extended periods too. Computer vision syndrome, mentioned above, can affect children as well. We recommend limiting screen time to a maximum of 2 hours per day for children, though it's understandably difficult to control under the circumstances. 

Try to get your child to take a 10 to 15 minute break every hour, and stop all screen time for at least 60 minutes before sleep. 

Children and Outdoor Play

Please follow local guidelines and instructions regarding outdoor activities for your children. If possible, it's actually good for visual development to spend 1-2 hours a day outside.

 

From all of us at Vision Care Consultants in St. Louis, we wish you good health and please stay safe. 

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VISION CARE CONSULTANTS COVID-19 CDC COMPLIANCE STATEMENT

Eyecare services are currently available for you, your children and family. However, please consult our Google Business page or call us for our current hours of operation. We want to advise you about the procedures and efforts that we are making to address the challenges regarding COVID-19/Coronavirus. (Read more)

Our efforts you can expect at our practice:

  • Staggered appointment times with minimal to no wait times in our reception area. Patients may also check in and wait outside in their cars to be called in for exam.
  • Following guidelines based upon medical evidence and closely monitoring the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
  • Educating our doctors and staff on preventative measures provided by the CDC with daily staff meeting updates.
  • Increasing the frequency and extent of our cleaning practices, such as additional wipe downs of all hard surfaces including the front desk, examination rooms after every exam and additional cleaning for all “patient touch points” (door handles, eyeglasses, counter tops, and other high-touch surfaces).
  • Providing additional resources that are available to patients and employees including hand sanitizers, extra soap and paper towels at all sinks and restrooms.
  • Implementing heightened sanitation and hand-washing procedures for all staff.

OUR PATIENT REQUEST:

  • Only bring scheduled patients to the office (1-Accompanied adult per minor or elderly patient).

  • If you recently traveled to any of the high risk countries within the past 30 days, please, delay & reschedule your appointment for 30 days after you returned from your travel.

  • If you have any flu-like symptoms (fever, chills body aches, & trouble breathing), please, delay your appointment for 30 days.

  • If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, and you arrive at our office, we will kindly ask you to leave & reschedule your appointment

  • Please notify us as soon as possible if you need to reschedule your appointment. This allows us to release your reserved time to another patient.

With appropriate precautions we will together address this challenge and modify behaviors that will make us better prepared to face such challenges in the future. Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Dr. Brawley, Dr. Friederich, Dr. Seibel, Dr. Wehner & Staff at Vision Care Consultants