Coronavirus symptom update: The two symptoms found in the eyes caused by COVID-19

Ophthalmological symptoms of COVID-19 are thought to affect up to three percent of people. In a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, it was found that eye symptoms occurred in the middle stages of the virus infection. What are some of the symptoms affecting the eyes that could signal an infection?


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Pink eye

Pink eye is also known as conjunctivitis and is an inflammation of the clear tissue over the whites of a person’s eyes and the inside of their eyelids.

This condition is usually accompanied with a redness and swelling of the eyes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list symptoms of pink eye which include pink or red colour in the white of the eyes, swelling of the conjunctiva, increased tear production, feeling like a foreign body is in the eyes or an urge to rub the eye, discharge, crusting of eyelids or lashes and contact lenses that feel uncomfortable.

CDC said: “The most common causes of conjunctivitis are viruses, bacteria or allergens.”

In a study published in the Journal of Medical Virology, conjunctivitis in COVID-19 patients was investigated.

The study noted: “Until now, the exact transmission route of COVID-19 remains unclear.

“The respiratory tract probably is not the only transmission route for this viral infection with some authors hypothesizing that COVID-19 droplets, or infected hands can also contaminate the conjunctiva, that could represent the initial site of a spread infection.

“Recent studies showed that conjunctivitis could be a manifestation of COVID-19 because the eye could be considered as a direct potential portal of entry for the virus.”

The researchers examined 1,167 people with either mild or severe COVID-19.

They found that 1.1 percent of people developed pink eyes and that it was more common in people displaying severe symptoms of the deadly virus.

It was also found that only 0.7 percent of people with mild symptoms of COVID-19 developed pink eyes, while it occurred in three percent of people with severe symptoms. 


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EB Medicine said: “Chemosis is edema of the conjunctiva.

“This may occur in the setting of allergies, trauma, conjunctivitis, recent eye surgery or constant eye rubbing.

“Other less common causes include hyperthyroidism, lupus or obstruction of lymphatic or venous drainage.

“Management includes treating the underlying cause of chemosis.”

In a study with the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, ocular manifestations and conjunctival viral prevalence in COVID-19 patients was analysed.

The study noted: “In this case series including 38 patients with COVID-19, 12 patients had ocular manifestations such as epiphora, conjunctival congestion, or chemosis, and these commonly occurred in patients with more severe systematic manifestations.”

The study reported that seven of the patients experienced chemosis, which is swelling of the clear membrane and is a symptom of pink eye or a general sign of eye irritation. 

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