Bacteria and viruses can be destroyed by UV light, but excessive use is harmful.
Doctors from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine stated in a paper published in the journal Ocular Immunology and Inflammation that some patients who used germicidal lamps to try to disinfect coronavirus experienced painful corneal inflammation, a disorder called photokeratitis.
In an effort to remove coronavirus from homes and workplaces, these ultraviolet (UV) products, available to customers, were used.
“During the height of the pandemic, we noticed an increased number of patients coming in with irritation, pain and sensitivity to light,” said first author and Bascom Palmer physician Jesse Sengillo, M.D. “After direct exposure to germicidal lamps that emit UV light in the C range to destroy bacteria and viruses, we realized this was happening.
This can be quite a traumatic experience for the patient, but patients also do quite well with immediate topical lubrication and infection prevention antibiotics.
UV photokeratitis occurs when unnecessary ultraviolet radiation is exposed to the cornea.
This can happen at high altitudes, where the atmosphere absorbs less UV rays, or near water, snow, or other environmental reflective surfaces.
Patients feel a burning feeling in the eyes a few hours after exposure and often a serious sensitivity to light.
There are many germicidal lamps on the market, and while they may be safe for home use, to prevent harm to their eyes and skin, consumers need to follow the instructions of manufacturers closely.
“The patients we met were unaware of these recommendations, and many were unknowingly exposed at work,” said co-author and colleague Anne Kunkler, M.D., B.S. “It is safer to leave the room while the screen is on for UV-C emitting devices. For different periods of time, our patients were directly exposed to the sun.
They felt unwell a couple of hours later and sought medical attention.
Dr. Sengillo and colleagues advise anyone who experiences eye pain to urgently see an ophthalmologist following exposure to one of these devices.
Although germicidal lamps are being purchased during the pandemic to protect citizens, this study has not investigated whether they are successful in destroying coronaviruses. “Recently, there have been a number of COVID-19 publications.
To prevent misunderstanding among the public, it is critical that we disseminate knowledge accurately and responsibly,” Dr. Sengillo and colleagues note. Some germicidal devices emitting UV-C have been shown to be successful in destroying different microbes and viruses, but to the knowledge of the authors, they have not yet been directly tested against COVID-19. “Our research was not intended to address that issue.
If you plan to use these lamps, be sure to strictly observe the instructions of the manufacturer in order to prevent unnecessary damage, said Dr. Sengillo.
Reference: Jesse D. Sengillo, MD, Anne L. Kunkler, MD, Charles Medert, MD, Benjamin Fowler, MD, PhD, Marissa Shoji, MD, Nathan Pirakitikulr, MD, PhD, Nimesh Patel, MD, Nicolas A. Yannuzzi, MD, Angela J. Verkade, MD, Darlene Miller, DHSc, MPH, David H Sliney, PhD, Jean-Marie Parel, PhD, and Guillermo Amescua, MD, ‘UV photokeratitis associated with germicidal lamps acquired during the COVID-19 pandemic.’