Protecting Your Eyes from COVID-19

Here’s an easy tip to observe during the COVID-19 outbreak: If you are venturing to the grocery store or any environment where you might be exposed to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 (even just a local park), wear eyeglasses or sunglasses. That can help protect you from infection through your ocular (eye) surface, which is one of the portals through which the virus may travel into the body and, eventually, to the lungs.

Although glasses don’t provide complete protection (they’d have to seal around the eyes to do that), they protect you substantially more than no glasses, plus they help keep you from accidentally touching your eye. If you don’t have prescription eyeglasses, you can buy an inexpensive clear (nonprescription) pair, sold online and over the counter at many pharmacies.

If you wear contact lenses, our experts say you should wear glasses over them when outside the home, since contacts cover only 30 to 40 percent of the ocular surface—or you can simply forgo wearing contacts during the COVID-19 pandemic and use prescription eyeglasses instead. If you continue wearing contact lenses, it’s more important than ever to follow the recommended procedures for disinfecting, cleaning, handling, and inserting them, according to Kenneth A. Polse, OD, a professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Optometry.