But now, a new study says that those with spectacles may be at an advantage when it comes to avoiding spread of the virus.
According to The Independent, a study out of India suggests that those who wear glasses could be up to three times less likely to spread the virus—for the simple reason that those with glasses are less likely to rub their eyes. The study measured patients who had coronavirus.
“Long term use of spectacles may prevent repeated touching and rubbing of the eyes. Aim of the study is to compare the risk of COVID-19 in long term spectacles wearers with the risk in persons not using spectacles,” the study’s abstract says. “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 nasolacrimal duct may be a route of virus transmission from conjunctival sac to the nasopharynx.”
There are some caveats to the study. It is preliminary and not yet peer-reviewed, and published on the “preprint” website MedrxIV, rather than in a medical journal. It consisted of only 304 patients—of whom 58 “showed the behavior of using spectacles continuously during day time and always on outdoor activities”—all of whom are located in Northern India.
There was a similar study, out of China, last September. That one measured 276 patients hospitalized with coronavirus, and found that “the proportion of daily wearers of eyeglasses was lower than that of the local population (5.8% vs 31.5%).”
“It’s a provocative and fascinating study. But in the scheme of things, this is a small portion of the population. We’d require a much larger study before making any conclusions about whether wearing glasses really does mean people are touching their eyes less often, and therefore decreasing infection rates,” Dr. Thomas Steinemann, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, told that organization’s website in January.
There was much discussion of the study on social media, including a great deal of skepticism. The CNN host S.E. Cupp, who always wears glasses on the air, shared a news story about the study.
“The risk of getting run over after your glasses fog up more than compensates for this advantage,” New York Times columnist David Brooks said.
And in the much-reported story over the weekend of a pair of women in Florida dressing up as old in order to receive the coronavirus vaccine, the disguise included glasses.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.