The big question, so do eyeglasses actually do that or do they make you more vulnerable to this deadly virus? And what about contacts, where do they figure? When the pandemic first hit, a leading US ophthalmological society said contact lens wearers should switch to glasses immediately to avoid spreading the infection by touching their eyes. Later, another medical journal claimed that wearing glasses might actually increase the risk of spread because glasses wearers tended to touch their faces multiple times a day as they adjusted their frames.
A couple of months ago, a study based on data emerging from Suizhou Zengdu Hospital in Suizhou, China, about 90 miles from Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, reported that very few people hospitalized for COVID-19 wore glasses compared to the percentage of adults in China who wear glasses. In the study, published on September 16, researchers in China studied 276 hospitalized COVID-19 patients and found that less than 6 percent of them regularly wore glasses for myopia, compared to the 31.5 percent of the population who needed glasses for the same reason, concluding that wearing glasses for at least eight hours daily actually protected people from COVID-19 infections.
The researchers added that their findings suggested that the eye was an important infection route for COVID-19, and more attention should be paid to preventive measures such as frequent handwashing and avoiding touching the eyes.
Protecting Your Eyes To Keep Covid 19 At Bay
In the last few months as more data emerges, researchers agree that glasses, most likely, act as a barrier, at least partially, against the virus. We now know that the eyes, like the mouth and nose, are potential entry-points for bacteria and viruses, which is why healthcare workers all wear safety goggles as part of their personal protective equipment.
We spoke to Mumbai-based ophthalmologist Dr. Tulika Goleria who said there is now a fair amount of data to suggest that protecting one’s eyes can have a protective effect against the virus. “It may not be as great as wearing a mask, but it is still helpful,” she said. This is backed by what has been documented as COVID-19 infection via eyes in the case of Joseph Fair, a virologist and NBC medical contributor, who says he contracted COVID-19 through his unprotected eyes on a crowded flight even though he wore a mask and gloves. Medical journal, The Lancet, has also reported that eye protection can reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, although eye protection is not as effective as practicing social distancing or wearing a mask.
A Johns Hopkins team studied eye tissue samples of cadavers known to have died of COVID-19 to check for proteins, ACE2 and TMPRSS2. Both were found on the surface of the eye, making the researchers conclude that the eyes are indeed vulnerable to the virus. What this means, says Dr. Goleria, “is that you can get COVID-19 through your eyes. This is because our eyes are connected to our noses and our throats through tear ducts. If you rub the eyes and touch your nose after touching a contaminated surface, you are at high risk of contracting the virus,” she added.
So Should You Buy Protective Glasses?
If you are a regular eyeglass wearer you should continue wearing them, along with your mask of course. If you’re not buying a pair of zero power block light blocking computer glasses is probably a good idea. Or else wear an eye shield. “Medical professionals should definitely wear protective eye guards but lay people should use some form of eye protection,” says Dr Goleria. Glasses may not offer as much protection as goggles or a shield, but do deliver some of the same benefits by serving as a partial barrier against expelled virus particles that stay in the air. However, she adds that at best glasses are really a third line of defence, not the first, and definitely not enough by themselves to offer protection against the virus.
And What About Contact Lens Wearers
Given the fact that glasses offer comparatively low level of protection, it is not advisable for contact lens wearers to switch to glasses. “Since they are new to eyewear the tendency to touch their faces to keep adjusting their glasses could actually do more harm than good, making them more susceptible,” says Dr Goleria. People should stick with whatever they normally use, whether it’s glasses or contacts. It’s also important for contact lens wearers to wash their hands carefully before inserting or removing their contacts, basic hygiene they should practice at all times in any case.