Eye Diseases
Eye Health and COVID-19

​​​How does COVID-19 affect eyes?

Contracting COVID-19 can occur through the eyes just as it occurs through the mouth or nose. This can happen as a result of an infected person's droplets, from sneezing or coughing, entering the eyes. It can also occur if you touch something that contains the virus then touch your eyes. The virus can also cause conjunctivitis (pink eye), but this is uncommon. 

COVID-19 and conjunctivitis
  • COVID-19 may cause conjunctivitis; the virus was also proven to be present in tears.  
  • Any viral infection in the upper respiratory tract may lead to viral conjunctivitis as a secondary complication, and this is also the case with COVID-19.
  • It is unlikely that a person would develop viral conjunctivitis as a result of contracting COVID-19 without showing other symptoms like a fever or cough.
  • Conjunctivitis can be caused by other infections, including a bacterial infection or eye allergy.

Symptoms:
Symptoms of conjunctivitis caused by the novel Coronavirus are only part of a group of other symptoms (e.g. fever and cough). However, these symptoms appear only on the eyes. They include:
  • Congestion and redness of the eyes
  • Itching and feeling that there is a foreign body in the eyes
  • Watery eyes

Noteworthy, conjunctivitis caused by COVID-19, or any other infection, is contagious. Therefore, it’s important to be careful and take the necessary measures to prevent transmitting the infection to others. 

Some of the precautions you can take include:
  • Avoiding sharing towels and pillows with others.
  • Avoiding rubbing your eyes.
  • Washing your hands with soap and water regularly.
  • Washing the pillow covers and towels of the infected person separately with hot water and soap.

To reduce the severity of eye symptoms:
  • Use a clean piece of cotton (one for each eye), and apply cold compresses to the eyes to reduce the congestion and burning sensation;
  • Prepare a disposable container after using the compresses and dispose of the used cotton in a safe manner to avoid spreading the infection;
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses until your eyes completely cured.

You should seek medical advice (while taking necessary precautions) if you notice any of the following symptoms:
  • Pain in your eyes;
  • Sensitivity to light;
  • Changes in your vision (such as: Seeing wavy lines or flashes of light);
  • Severe redness in one or both eyes;
  • Seeing no improvement of the symptoms in two weeks

Ways to maintain eye health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic:
  • Replace your contact lenses with prescription glasses. There is no evidence that wearing contact lenses increases the risk of contracting the virus; however, people who wear contact lenses tend to touch their eyes more than average people. Replacing contact lenses with glasses can reduce irritation and temporarily stop contact with the eyes.
  • Wearing glasses may add a layer of protection. Corrective lenses or sunglasses can protect eyes from respiratory droplets when someone sneezes; however, take into account that they do not provide 100% protection. The virus can still reach the eyes from the exposed sides of the glasses If you are caring for a patient or someone at risk, safety glasses may provide a stronger defense.
  • Store eye prescriptions. Experts advise people to store critical medications like glaucoma drops. The aim is to help patients have enough of their medications in case they had to be isolated or a shortage in medical supplies occurred during an outbreak.
  • Avoid touching your eyes. This reduces the risk of an infection. If you feel the urge to itch, rub your eyes, or even adjust your glasses, use a tissue instead of your hands. Dry eyes can also lead to further itching. So, it is preferable to add moisturizing drops to your eye routine. If you must touch your eyes, wash your hands with soap and water first, then wash them again when you are done.
  • Stick to preventive measures. You can do that by washing your hands and avoiding touching your nose, mouth, or eyes.
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