And Dr. Maragakis noted that a number of factors can confuse the data and it may turn out that wearing glasses is simply related to another variable that affects the risk of Covid-19. For example, people who wear glasses may be older and more careful and more likely to stay home during a viral epidemic than those who do not wear glasses. Or maybe people who can afford glasses are less likely to infect the virus for other reasons, such as having the means to live in less crowded spaces.
“This is a study,” Dr. Maragakis said. “It has some biological plausibility, given that in healthcare facilities we use eye protection,”
Healthcare professionals wear eye protection to protect them from droplets that can fly from coughing and sneezing, as well as from aerosolized particles that form when patients undergo medical procedures such as intubation. But for most people, this extra level of protection is probably not necessary if one wears a mask and maintains physical distance in public spaces. There is also the possibility of introducing a risk by wearing glasses – some people can touch their faces more when they wear glasses, not less, said Dr. Maragakis.
However, further research is needed to see if the trend persists in other populations studied, said Dr. Thomas Steinemann, a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and a professor of ophthalmology at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.
“I think it’s provocative and it’s very interesting,” said Dr. Steinemann.
But Dr. Steinemann noted that the study should not cause concern among people who do not wear glasses. “It probably can’t hurt to wear glasses, but should everyone do it?” Probably not, “he said. “I think you have to consider the practicality of wearing eye protection or a face shield. People with certain professions, first responders, caregivers for the sick, these are people who may need special attention. “
The findings also raise interesting questions about how often the eyes can be the gateway for the virus to enter. It has long been established that viruses and other microbes can enter the body through the mucous membranes of the face in the eyes, nose and mouth. But the nose seems to be a major entry point for the coronavirus, as it has a large number of receptors that create a friendly environment in which the virus can replicate and travel through the airways.
But doctors see a small percentage of patients with ocular symptoms, including conjunctivitis or a pink eye, suggesting that the virus can also enter the body through the eyes. Although ocular symptoms are less common than other symptoms such as cough or fever, various studies have reported that eye complaints may be a sign of Covid-19 infection.
Last month, researchers reported a study of 216 children hospitalized with Covid-19 in Wuhan. Among these patients, 49 children, or nearly 23 percent of the cases, had ocular symptoms, including conjunctival secretion, friction in the eyes, and congestive congestion. In addition to the pink eye, itchy eyes, excessive tearing, blurred vision and a feeling that something is in the eyes have been described by patients with Covid-19.