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Coronavirus and Keratoconus: What You Need to Know

Coronavirus and Keratoconus: What You Need to Know

With the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the world, including in the United States, patients with underlying health conditions may be concerned not only about COVID-19, but also how it can affect their pre-existing illness. It's understandable that people with underlying health conditions may become worried and anxious over catching the infection.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with this new virus (named SARS-CoV-2).

COVID-19, short for "coronavirus disease 2019," is the official name given by the World Health Organization to the disease caused by this newly identified coronavirus.

In this article we will answer some common questions about COVID-19 to best of our knowledge.

To get through this crisis, we all need to work together and support each other. As a community with more than 55,000 members and followers, it is our duty to spread facts about this disease and fight misinformation.

In order to help our members, we have assigned a post flair to COVID-19 in our Reddit community r/Keratoconus, and we have also created a post topic/tag for COVID-19 in our Facebook group. Members of both communities can use these tags to categorize their posts and find contents shared by others.

How would COVID-19 affect me if I have keratoconus?

Experts say guarding your eyes—as well as your hands and mouth—can slow the spread of coronavirus.

  • When a sick person coughs or talks, virus particles can spray from their mouth or nose into another person’s face. You’re most likely to inhale these droplets 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.
  • You can also become infected by touching something that has the virus on it—like a table or doorknob—and then touching your eyes.

According to CDC, as of March 12, there is no evidence to suggest contact lens wearers are more at risk for acquiring COVID-19 than eyeglass wearers. Contact lens wearers should continue to practice safe contact lens wear and care hygiene habits to help prevent against transmission of any contact lens-related infections, such as always washing hands with soap and water before handling lenses. People who are healthy can continue to wear and care for their contact lenses as prescribed by their eye care professional.

Hydrogen peroxide-based systems for cleaning, disinfecting, and storing contact lenses should be effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. For other disinfection methods, such as multipurpose solution and ultrasonic cleaners, there is currently not enough scientific evidence to determine efficacy against the virus. Contact lens wearers must use solution to disinfect their contact lenses and case to kill germs that may be present, and handle lenses over a surface that has been cleaned and disinfected.

We don't know how COVID-19 affects people with keratoconus, however keratoconus is often associated with other health conditions such as asthma. If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because you have a serious long-term health problem, it is extra important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

How does COVID-19 spread?

The coronavirus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person. This can happen between people who are in close contact with one another. Droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes may land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into their lungs.

Coronavirus can also spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects. For example, a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

What can I do to protect myself and others from COVID-19?

The following actions help prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as other coronaviruses and influenza:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Maintain at least 3 feet (1 meter) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Stay home when you are sick. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.

The single most important piece of advice health experts can give to help us stay safe from COVID-19 is this one: Wash your hands. The CDC's Handwashing website has detailed instructions and a video about effective handwashing procedures.

Wearing facemasks or face coverings

A cloth face covering should be worn whenever people must go into public settings (grocery stores, for example). Medical masks and N-95 respirators are reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community setting. This is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in addition to (not instead of) social distancing, frequent hand cleaning and other everyday preventive actions. A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. This would be especially important in the event that someone is infected but does not have symptoms.

How is the new coronavirus related to the eyes?

Eyes might play an important role in the spread and prevention of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). To cut your risk of contracting the coronavirus, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends protective eyewear, among other precautions, if you will be near someone with the new virus for an extended period.

COVID-19 may cause ocular signs and symptoms, including photophobia, irritation, conjunctival injection and ocular discharge. As of Feb. 10, new information is emerging that identifies the conjunctiva as an alleged route of exposure; COVID-19 may enter the body through the eyes and spread to the whole body through the superficial blood vessels within the conjunctiva.

In January, a Peking University physician who contracted the killer infection said he believed he had become infected after wearing inadequate eye protection while treating patients. Peking University respiratory specialist Wang Guangfa reported his left eye became inflamed after he worked with infected patients and was followed by a fever and a buildup of mucus in his nose and throat. He was subsequently diagnosed with coronavirus and according to the South China Morning Post has said he believes the virus entered his left eye because he wasn’t wearing protective eyewear.

If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should:

  • Stock up on eye medicine prescriptions if you can.
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes.
  • Stock up on supplies.
  • Take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others.
  • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
  • Avoid crowds as much as possible.
  • Avoid cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
  • During a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible to further reduce your risk of being exposed.

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