The impact of COVID-19 on eye health

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Australians have adjusted to a new way of life while living with the threat of COVID-19; wearing masks, regularly washing hands and social distancing have all been widely adopted. Many of these changes have had a knock-on effect, impacting overall eye health.

Optometry Australia’s Chief Clinical Officer Luke Arundel and fellow optometrist Tim Martin were recently interviewed by Tash Miles for the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency podcast, Taking Care. The duo joined Tash to discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on eye health. Listen to the episode here.

We’ve taken a closer look below at a couple of the implications Luke and Tim discussed on the podcast.

1. Alcohol-based hand sanitiser

Particularly prevalent during the pandemic was the spike in chemical eye injuries in young children.  A study in France found ocular injuries resulting from alcohol-based hand sanitiser (ABHS) increased by 10 per cent in 2020.

Gel dispensers are often one metre tall, an ideal height for adults to comfortably wash their hands but also at eye level for many children. This is causing hand sanitiser to splash into children's eyes, subsequently leading to ocular injuries.

Parents are being advised to promote hand washing with soap and water where possible as a substitute and to prevent ABHS entering a child’s eye.

2. Implications of face masks

Over the past year, both Luke and Tim have observed patients switching to contact lenses as a way to combat the fog issues arising from wearing face masks and glasses. Contact lenses have been a solution to individuals whose sight has been disrupted when wearing masks with glasses.

Optometrists have also noticed a new phonomemen arise, Mask Associated Dry Eyes (MADE). MADE occurs when air escapes through the top of masks, causing people to experience dry eyes. Ways in which to combat MADE is to ensure your mask is properly fitted or use lubricating eye drops to relieve dry eye discomfort.

3. Failure to get eyes checked

Concerningly at the height of the pandemic, both Luke and Tim noticed a number of patients with chronic conditions cancel their appointments due to safety concerns. According to Medicare data, optometrists provided 630,000 less consultations in FY 2019/2020.

During strict lockdowns, advice from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) assured Australians they were able to leave home to receive healthcare or attend medical appointments, so not to put off getting medical care.

With 90 per cent of vision loss preventable or treatable if detected early, it’s vital Australians do not neglect their eye health. If you’re experiencing any symptoms, use our find an Optometrist tool to locate your local optometrist and book an appointment. Whilst COVID-19 continues to impact everyday life, it is important to care for your eye health.

Be sure to head over to the AHPRA website to have a listen to Luke and Tim’s podcast in full.


Taking Care is a podcast by Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency hosting conversations and interviews with people in the community. They discuss current issues, address myths and common questions while thinking about what they can do to best protect the public and support the safe delivery of health care in Australia.

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