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COVID-19: After the masks, should we wear glasses to protect ourselves from the coronavirus?

Wearing glasses with a mask is not an easy exercise. However, they could be complementary: researchers in China suggest that people who wear glasses have a lower risk of being infected with the new coronavirus.

Only a few spectacle wearers among COVID-19 hospitalized patients

As scientists explain in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, only a few spectacle wearers have been hospitalized with symptoms since the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

To prove his thesis, it was noted in the medical record whether a patient wears glasses or not. Their study found that only 16 of the 276 patients admitted to Suizhou Zengdu Hospital, or 5.8 percent, wore glasses continuously. That is, patients who used their glasses more than eight hours a day. They later discovered that all of these patients were myopic.

There were 14 other presbyopia (eyestrain) patients with less consistent lens wear.

Based on previous studies, they calculated how many people in China’s Hubei province – where the hospital is located – suffered from myopia. The proportion of the myopic population was 31.5%, which is much higher than that of patients admitted to hospital. Researchers now suspect a connection between continued wearing of glasses and protection against the virus.

Already in February, cases of people infected with the coronavirus were observed in medical areas that had not adequately protected their eyes. Most specialized protection protocols mention the eyes as an important route of entry for the virus, however for the general public the measures are limited to the use of a mask, the authors point out.

In addition, a relatively small proportion of COVID-19 patients suffer from eye symptoms

Does the coronavirus enter through the eyes? Data to handle with caution

The authors of the article themselves point out some methodological weaknesses. To begin with, only a small sample was studied in a single hospital.

The data the scientists used to compare the use of glasses among the population was out of date and did not match their sample of Covid patients at the hospital in terms of age and other demographic characteristics. It is also not a fact that all myopic people wear glasses for at least eight hours a day.

The coronavirus is transmitted by aerosols, that is, through the air, but also when there are enough virus particles on our hands.

Scientists hypothesize that wearing glasses could be preventing us from touching our eyes. It is estimated that people without glasses involuntarily rub their eyes with their hands 10 times every hour.

Another possibility is that the goggles are protecting the eyes from the entry of breath-borne particles and droplets.

Although the study suggests that there is a relationship between the use of glasses and coronavirus infection, there is insufficient data to support this observation with certainty. Therefore, the researchers’ findings should be treated with caution, at least for now.

They consider that it is an interesting clue that should be investigated in more hospitals and with a more extended population.

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