COVID's collateral damage: Germicidal lamps may damage corneas

November 24, 2020

In a paper published in the journal of Ocular Immunology and Inflammation, physicians from the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine reported that several patients using germicidal lamps in an attempt to sanitize against the coronavirus, developed painful inflammation of the cornea, a condition called photokeratitis. These consumer-available ultraviolet (UV) emitting devices were being used in an attempt to eliminate coronavirus from homes and offices.

"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 resident Jesse Sengillo, M.D. "We realized this was after direct exposure to germicidal lamps that emit UV light in the C range to kill bacteria and viruses. This can be quite a painful experience for the patient, but with prompt topical lubrication and antibiotics to prevent infection, patients often do very well."

UV photokeratitis occurs when the cornea is overexposed to ultraviolet radiation. This can happen at high elevation, where less UV rays are absorbed by the atmosphere, or near water, snow or other reflective surfaces in the environment. A few hours after exposure, patients experience burning in their eyes and sometimes intense light sensitivity.

Numerous germicidal lamps are on the market, and while they may be safe for at-home use, customers need to pay close attention to manufacturer recommendations to prevent damage to the eyes and skin.

"The patients we met were not aware of these recommendations, and many were unknowingly exposed at work" said co-author and fellow resident Anne Kunkler, M.D., B.S. "For UV-C emitting devices, it is best to leave the room while the device is on. Our patients were directly exposed to the light for various lengths of time. A few hours later, they felt discomfort and sought medical attention."

Dr. Sengillo and colleagues encourage anyone feeling eye discomfort after exposure to one of these devices to promptly seek medical attention a medical professional from an ophthalmologist.

While germicidal lamps are being purchased to protect people during the pandemic, this study did not attempt to address whether they are effective in destroying coronaviruses. "There are many COVID-19 related publications recently. It is important that we disseminate information accurately and responsibly to avoid public confusion." Dr. Sengillo and colleagues note that some UV-C emitting germicidal devices are proven to be effective in killing various microbes and viruses, but to the authors knowledge, they have not been tested against COVID-19 specifically yet. "Our study was not designed to answer that question. If you choose to use these lamps, just make sure to follow manufacturer recommendations closely to avoid unnecessary injury," said Dr. Sengillo.
-end-


University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Related Inflammation Articles from Brightsurf:

3D printed stents that treat inflammation
POSTECH Professor Dong-Woo Cho's research team develops bioink-loaded esophageal stents for treating radiation esophagitis.

New cause of inflammation in people with HIV identified
A new study led by researchers at Boston Medical Center examined what factors could be contributing to this inflammation, and they identified the inability to control HIV RNA production from existing HIV DNA as a potential key driver of inflammation.

Maltreatment tied to higher inflammation in girls
New research by a University of Georgia scientist reveals that girls who are maltreated show higher levels of inflammation at an early age than boys who are maltreated or children who have not experienced abuse.

A protein that controls inflammation
A study by the research team of Prof. Geert van Loo (VIB-UGent Center for Inflammation Research) has unraveled a critical molecular mechanism behind autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease, and psoriasis.

Inflammation in the brain linked to several forms of dementia
Inflammation in the brain may be more widely implicated in dementias than was previously thought, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge.

Social isolation could cause physical inflammation
Social isolation could be associated with increased inflammation in the body new research from the University of Surrey and Brunel University London has found.

Hydrogels control inflammation to help healing
Researchers test a sampling of synthetic, biocompatible hydrogels to see how tuning them influences the body's inflammatory response.

Why beta-blockers cause skin inflammation
Beta-blockers are often used to treat high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases.

The 'inflammation' of opioid use
New research correlates inflammation in the brain and gut to negative emotional state during opioid withdrawal.

Using a common anticonvulsant to counteract inflammation
The interaction between a chromosomal protein called HMGB1 and a cellular receptor called RAGE is known to trigger inflammation.

Read More: Inflammation News and Inflammation Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.