UTTAR PRADESH, India — Wearing glasses with a face mask can definitely be a chore for some people. Fogged up spectacles are a constant inconvenience for many who have to go outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic. Despite those issues, a new report has some good news for glasses wearers — they’re much less likely to contract COVID-19.
Ophthalmologist Amit Kumar Saxena of India finds people regularly wearing eyeglasses are up to three times less likely to catch the illness. There is plenty of research showing that the SARSCoV-2 virus travels from person to person through infectious particles. These typically spread through coughs, sneezes, and even talking as aerosols fly out of the mouth and into someone’s nose.
What many tend to forget is the virus can also enter the body through the membrane which covers the front of the eye — the conjunctiva. According to the pre-print study — meaning it has not been peer-reviewed yet — protective frames may be keeping coronavirus particles out of the eyes, especially ones which linger on that person’s own hands.
“The present study showed that the risk of COVID-19 was about 2-3 times less in spectacles wearing population than the population not wearing those,” the researcher writes in their report in MedRxiv. “Long term use of spectacles may prevent repeated touching and rubbing of the eyes”
“Touching and rubbing of the eyes with contaminated hands may be a significant route of infection for SARSCoV-2 virus,” Saxena adds.
Growing evidence that glasses block out COVID-19
The study examined 304 COVID patients in northern India during the summer of 2020. The study author gathered information on each person’s history with wearing glasses. He then calculated the risks of COVID infection for long-term eyeglass wearers and those not using spectacles.
In total, only 58 people in the group surveyed were classified as “long term spectacles wearers,” meaning they use them continuously during the day and always when outdoors.
“The risk of COVID-19 was found 0.48 in spectacles wearing population as compared to 1.35 in population not using spectacles. The calculated risk ratio was 0.36,” the report explains.
These preliminary findings add to another study from China, revealing that hospitalization rates among those wearing glasses is much lower. That report, in the journal JAMA Ophthalmol, found glasses wearers made up just five percent of COVID patients in Chinese hospitals. This is despite nearly one-third of the population wearing glasses.
While Saxena notes that infection through the eyes is “extremely rare,” the researcher explains that the route still makes it possible for people to contract COVID through their eyes.
“The nasolacrimal duct may be a route of virus transmission from conjunctival sac to the nasopharynx,” the study author concludes.