Life in a Pandemic – Are Glasses Wearers Really Better Protected From COVID?

  • COVID-19 spreads within respiratory droplets that are created when an infected individual talks, sneezes, or coughs.
  • Eyewear proved to be more than just a little bit tricky to wear alongside masks.
  • Can glasses really help to keep wearers safe from COVID?

We may be accustomed to using glasses to keep our eyesight healthy, but according to some researchers, our spectacles could play a key role in providing some extra protection against the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s now been a year since we first began donning masks in a bid to stem the spread of the devastating novel Coronavirus. For many glasses wearers, the past twelve months have been punctuated by the inconvenience of misty lenses and visual difficulties as eyewear proved to be more than just a little bit tricky to wear alongside masks.

But one question that’s emerged from the pandemic that we’re still attempting to answer with some confidence surrounds the added layer of protection glasses can bring to wearers when keeping shielded from the virus. Can glasses really help to keep wearers safe from COVID?

Let’s take a look at the evidence available to gain an understanding of the role that glasses can play during these difficult and chaotic times:

Can You Catch COVID Through Your Eyes?

Firstly, let’s explore the question of whether or not you can catch COVID through your eyes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 spreads within respiratory droplets that are created when an infected individual talks, sneezes, or coughs.

The CDC claims that the spread usually takes place when these droplets land in the mouth or nose of another individual, who then may become infected themselves.

(Image: 7NewsBoston)

Despite instances of infections occurring through these droplets landing in the eyes of individuals being considerably rarer, the CDC notes that there are other ways that can spread the virus, such as when somebody “touches a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touches their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.”

Although the agency acknowledges that “this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the CDC also states that “we are still learning more about how this virus spreads.”

Researchers at a Finland University launched a collaborative study in April 2020 using 3D modelling within a supercomputer to chart the spread of a single cough inside a supermarket.

The rendering shows how particles can spread across isles and eventually disperse throughout the store from an individual coughing without the safety of a face mask.

Although the models can’t determine whether these aerosol clouds could infect members of the public through their eyes, it certainly illustrates the potency of COVID particles within public locations – demonstrating how worryingly simple it is for infections to occur.

Could Glasses Shield Us From COVID?

The idea that glasses might be able to stop us from catching COVID could seem plausible on the face of things. Logically, masks help to stem the spread of the virus, so if your mouth and nose are covered, glasses may be able to act as a shield from airborne COVID particles.

Despite this, the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine concluded that eye protection is incapable of preventing people from catching Coronavirus alone, so it’s highly unlikely that glasses will be capable of protecting us from contracting the virus.

Sadly, medical advisers appear to claim that glasses have very little effect on whether or not you’re likely to catch COVID. Notably, if you’re wearing glasses, the surface of your eye could still be vulnerable to the droplets emanating from an infected person – this, of course, means it goes without saying that individuals wearing glasses must still follow their local social distancing guidelines.

Despite researchers learning more about Coronavirus on a daily basis, there has been plenty of medical advice released concerning advice for glasses wearers. Notably, the National Ophthalmological Society recommended that contact lenses users switch to glasses where possible in a bid to prevent them from contracting the virus by touching their eyes.

According to a recent study based on data from Suizhou Zengdu Hospital in China, researchers found that fewer people who were hospitalized locally from COVID-19 symptoms were wearers of glasses.

Although, elsewhere a JAMA Ophthalmology report released in September 2020 warned that using glasses could actually be more dangerous in the face of infections due to how often wearers touch their spectacles and, subsequently, their faces when readjusting their frames over the course of each day, especially when frames aren’t fit ideally for the shape of your face. Read more to see which face shape you have and how to properly choose glasses frame so that you won’t have to adjust them.

The news surrounding the effectiveness of glasses in limiting the risk of infection isn’t all dismissive of the notion, however. According to a recent study based on data from Suizhou Zengdu Hospital in China, researchers found that fewer people who were hospitalized locally from COVID-19 symptoms were wearers of glasses. The study published concerning these findings acknowledged that regularly wearing eyewear may, in fact, help to protect individuals from contracting the virus.

Following its release, the study caused a stir among news outlets, but because the data was purely observational from the researchers, it’s extremely difficult to quantify whether the findings were accurate, or whether they suffered from any unconscious biases.

Although the topic of whether glasses can help to protect individuals from COVID is highly debatable, there’s little doubt that a certain type of spectacles can help individuals coming to terms with another side effect of the pandemic: working from home.

Because we’re spending more time looking at work laptops and staying indoors to stare at our smartphones and tablets, we may have significantly increased our exposure to blue light – a form of light that illuminates our devices and risks damaging our eyes.

Can Contact Lenses Protect Us?

Despite the National Ophthalmological Society warning that wearers of contact lenses may be better off switching to glasses to help them avoid contracting the virus, Elia Duh, professor of ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute, says that contact lenses could provide better protection in comparison to wearing no contacts or glasses.

“There is an accumulation of evidence that says eye protection could have a protective effect,” Duh explained to Discover Magazine. “The effect is not as great as wearing a mask, but it is still helpful.”

The early distribution of Coronavirus vaccines have been the cause for great optimism around the world, but with rollouts not expected to be completed for some time to come, it’s vital that citizens around the world remain disciplined and alert against the spread of the virus.

With researchers unable to conclusively agree on the effectiveness of eyewear in limiting the spread of COVID, it’s clear that in no cases can glasses alone stop the virus. This means that, no matter how healthy we feel, it’s vital to continue protecting ourselves from the virus and to carry on wearing our masks at all times – even if they do steam up our lenses from time to time.

Dmytro Spilka

Dmytro is a CEO at Solvid and founder of Pridicto. His work has been published in Shopify, IBM, Entrepreneur, BuzzSumo, Campaign Monitor and Tech Radar.
https://solvid.co.uk/

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