Glasses Protect Against COVID-19 Transmission, New Study Claims

The study, carried out in Suizhou, China, suggests that glasses give an advantage against COVID-19.
Chris Young

As many glasses wearers will attest, including this author, the pandemic has brought with it a very specific challenge: to wear contacts outside or to put up with foggy glasses caused by exhaled air coming out of the top of our masks?

A new study from China suggests that wearing glasses is the way to go and that people with myopia may even be at an advantage when it comes to COVID-19.

The study says that wearing eyeglasses for more than 8 hours a day might help to protect against infection by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection.


A correlation for glasses wearers?

The study, published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmologyprovides an analysis of whether there is a correlation between wearing eyeglasses and the risk of contracting COVID-19. 

SARS-CoV-2, the highly infectious virus that causes COVID-19, is known to spread via respiratory droplets that are transmitted via the nose, mouth, and eyes. 

In China, over 80% of the population has myopia, a vision disorder, also known as nearsightedness, which makes distant objects blurry, and is typically corrected with eyeglasses.

Since the emergence of COVID-19 in China, it has been noted that the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients remained very low compared to other countries.

The study analyzed a total of 276 COVID-19 patients, all of which were admitted to Suizhou Zengdu Hospital, China, between January 27 and March 13, 2020.

The average age of participants was 51 years, with about 56% male. Approximately 5% of the patients in the study had a severe form of COVID-19. 

The researchers considered people who wore glasses more than 8 hours a day as regular wearers that would typically wear their glasses outdoors and in social situations.

Square eyes for life

The researchers' observations indicated that in Suizhou, China, where the study was held, the proportion of the population that has myopia and wears glasses (31.5%) is much higher than the proportion of hospitalized COVID-19 patients with myopia enrolled in the study (5.8%).

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This suggests that those who wear eyeglasses may be partially protected from COVID-19, and could even be 5 times less likely to be infected than those who don't wear glasses.

It is, of course, still important to follow the usual advice, which includes regularly washing hands, wearing a mask, and not touching other parts of your face.

Why is that? The researchers point to the fact that evidence shows that people who do not wear glasses involuntarily touch their eyes around ten times per hour. Wearing glasses may stop people from touching their eyes so often, leading to a reduction in the chance of hand-to-eye transmission of the virus.

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