Top 5 Most-Read Ophthalmology Stories of 2020

In a year in which health care professionals were forced to alter treatment plans to adjust to an ongoing health crisis, the majority of our most popular ophthalmology stories of 2020 involved the intersection of ophthalmologic care and coronavirus disease 2019.

In a year in which health care professionals were forced to alter treatment plans to adjust to an ongoing health crisis, the majority of our most popular ophthalmology stories of 2020 involved the intersection of ophthalmologic care and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, an FDA approval of the first drug indicated for thyroid eye disease did gain traction among readers.

Below is a list of the top 5 most-read ophthalmology stories of 2020.

5. Can Wearing Eyeglasses Mitigate COVID-19 Risk?

Results from a cohort study conducted between January and March 2020 at a single hospital in China found that among individuals hospitalized with COVID-19, the proportion of patients who wore glasses for extended daily periods of time was smaller than the general population. The findings suggest daily eyeglass wearers may be less susceptible to COVID-19. Of the 276 participants in the study, 30 with COVID-19 wore glasses (10.9%); all long-term wearers (n = 16) had myopia. However, the study’s small sample size, in addition to the fact that the proportion of eyeglass wearers was based on data from previous literature and not calculated from current local populations, mark limitations.

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4. FDA Approves Biologic Teprotumumab, First Drug for Thyroid Eye Disease

The same day the United States reported its first confirmed COVID-19 case, FDA regulators approved teprotumumab, a biologic sold as Tepezza, as the first drug indicated for thyroid eye disease. Approval was granted to Horizon Therapeutics Ireland DAC. The biologic is a targeted inhibitor of the insulin-like growth factor-1 receptor that is administered to patients once every 3 weeks for a total of 8 infusions. Thyroid eye disease is a rare condition where the muscles and fatty tissues behind the eye become inflamed, causing the eyes to be pushed forward and bulge outwards (proptosis). The cost of teprotumumab runs at $14,900 per vial and full treatment over 6 months necessitates approximately 23 vials.

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3. “Sore Eyes” Reported as Most Significant Ocular Symptom of COVID-19

Research published in BMJ Ophthalmology in December 2020 found thatthe most significant ocular symptom experienced by those with COVID-19 was sore eyes. Anonymous online data were collected between April 16 and July 20, 2020, from a total of 83 participants over the age of 18. All participants tested positive for COVID-19, as confirmed by a health care provider, and the majority (65%) were female. The 3 most common ocular symptoms were photophobia (18%), sore eyes (16%), and itchy eyes (17%), and the frequency of sore eyes was significantly higher (P = .002) during the COVID-19 state (16%) compared with the pre–COVID-19 state (5%).

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2. American Academy of Ophthalmology Issues Coronavirus Guidelines

In early March, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) released a set of guidelines for ophthalmologists recommending protection of the mouth, nose, and eyes when caring for patients potentially infected with COVID-19. The guidance was based on the latest information provided by the World Health Organization and CDC. The announcement came after several reports suggested that COVID-19 can cause conjunctivitis or pink eye. As affected patients may initially be recommended to eye clinics or emergency departments, ophthalmologists would serve as the first providers to evaluate patients possibly infected with the novel coronavirus. At the time, 102,927 cases of COVID-19 had been reported around the world, with 213 cases in the United States.

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1. COVID-19 May Be Transmitted Through the Eye, Report Finds

A study published in March 2020 found that preliminary data may suggest that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, might be transmitted through the eye, in addition to known transmission routes of the mouth and nose. The small study of data from 38 patients infected with COVID-19 from Hubei Province, China, found 12 (31.6%; 95% CI, 17.5%-48.7%) individuals had ocular manifestations, including epiphora, conjunctival congestion, or chemosis. Researchers also found COVID-19 was present on conjunctiva swabs from 2 of 11 (18%) patients tested for SARS-CoV-2 via nasopharyngeal swabs. The findings highlight the importance of COVID-19 protective measures such as frequent hand washing, mask use, and social distancing.

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