By now we know that the coronavirus is thought to spread mainly through droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and that these loaded droplets can land in the nose or mouth of a person nearby. We also know that face mask use, social distancing and regular hand washing are essential to help slow the spread.
But now a new study, published in JAMA Opthalmology in late September, suggests that eyeglasses could be a surprising ally too. Hospital workers wear wrap-around goggles and face shields to protect themselves from droplets, and researchers think they may have found a promising link between wearing glasses daily (deemed as anything over eight hours each day) and a lower risk of coronavirus infection too.
In the report, researchers stated that, "In this cohort study of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Suizhou, China, the proportion of inpatients with COVID-19 who wore glasses for extended daily periods (>8 h/d) was smaller than that in the general population, suggesting that daily wearers of eyeglasses may be less susceptible to COVID-19."
The study focused on 276 COVID-19 patients in China’s Suizhou Zengdu Hospital, with researchers asking if the patients wore glasses and for how long each day. The study found that 31.5% of people in that region of China wore glasses regularly, but only 5.8% of patients in this study needed to wear glasses daily.
How eyeglasses could act as a barrier to droplets
The research suggests that people who wear eyeglasses every day are less likely to frequently touch their eyes (an act that could increase risk of infection), and that glasses may provide a barrier to droplets reaching a person’s eyes.
The researchers concluded that, ‘the eye may be an important infection route for COVID-19, and more attention should be paid to preventive measures such as frequent hand washing and avoiding touching the eyes.’
It’s important to note that this is a small study, and more research is needed before science can take an informed stance, but it's a promising link between wearing glasses and reduced infection risk. However, people who wear glasses still need to adhere to official health guidance to reduce infection risk, which we’ll recap below.
How to reduce your risk of infection: Latest advice
We’ve had a lot of guidance over the past several months about how to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and how best to protect ourselves from potential infection. The main approach is still social distancing, regular hand washing (or sanitizing if you are away from home) and wearing a cloth face covering or medical mask.
According to the latest CDC coronavirus guidelines, this is what we should all be doing as routine protective measures:
- Know how the virus spreads - stay up to date on new guidance
- Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
- When away from home, cleanse your hands with sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol
- Maintain six feet distance between yourself and those outside your household
- Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others outside your home
- Carry tissues to sneeze and cough into
- Where possible, avoid areas where virus transmission is active
- Stay away from people who have coronavirus symptoms
- If you are caring for someone who has COVID-19, wear a medical mask
- Frequently disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your home
Caring for your eyes during the pandemic
If you wear glasses daily, you are likely to have ongoing sight issues that need regular care and attention. Thanks to a rise in teletherapy, many of us are still able to have regular remote appointments with eye health professionals. However, eye examinations are still important, especially if you have a changing prescription or are experiencing regular deterioration in your eyesight.
For those of you who have a stable prescription, but would like to upgrade your eyewear, take a look at our guide to the best eyeglasses online, which includes the top retailers for prescription glasses. We also round-up the best contact lenses online if you wear those too. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before inserting your contacts and after removing them, and avoid touching your eyes (and nose and mouth) throughout the day.
You may also be interested in learning about how the best vision insurance could assist with the cost of any ongoing eye care needs.