The most common symptoms of the coronavirus COVID-19 are a fever, coughing, and breathing problems. COVID-19 gets passed on primarily through droplets from a cough or a sneeze. These particles most often enter through your nose or mouth as well as your eyes. It’s also possible to catch the virus if you touch a contaminated countertop, doorknob, or other surfaces. But this doesn’t seem to be the main way the virus spreads. It’s important to wash your hands and eyewear regularly with soap and water.
With proper hygiene, there is currently no evidence that wearing contact lenses in itself increases your risk of infection from COVID-19. Rarely, however, the virus can cause an eye infection called conjunctivitis.
Based on data so far, doctors believe that 1%-3% of people with COVID-19 will get conjunctivitis, also called pinkeye. It happens when the virus infects a tissue called conjunctiva, which covers the white part of your eye or the inside of your eyelids. If you notice that your eyes are red, swollen or itchy, these are all symptoms to be aware of.
If you have conjunctivitis, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have COVID-19. The more likely causes are the many different viruses, bacteria, chemicals, and allergens that can irritate your eyes. Many forms of conjunctivitis go away with over-the-counter treatments in about 1-2 weeks. If you have conjunctivitis from COVID-19, you may infect others with the virus if you touch your eyes and then touch people or surfaces without washing or disinfecting your hands. Avoid touching your face, especially the mucous membranes in your mouth, nose, and eyes.
However, if you are also experiencing a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, contact your doctor immediately. It is wise to call before you head to a hospital or a medical center to see if it’s safe for you to visit and for any instructions upon your arrival.
Can COVID-19 cause temporary or permanent damage to your eyes?
Although conjunctivitis, which is a temporary condition, has been linked to COVID-19, at this point permanent eye damage from COVID-19 has not been reported. If a patient were in respiratory distress long enough, theoretically poor perfusion and oxygen deprivation could lead to possible damage to metabolically active tissues, such as the optic nerve or retina, but this has yet to be reported in COVID-19 related cases. In this instance, eye damage would be caused by decreased oxygen, rather than the virus itself.
Can COVID-19 be transmitted through tear droplets and is this something to worry about?
Transmission through infected ocular tissue or fluid has been controversial. Novel coronavirus has been detected in tear samples in a small number of cases. Given the presence of viral particles, it is, therefore, possible to transmit COVID-19, although the risk is likely low. However, the infectivity or clinical significance is not known and additional studies are needed at this time.
Seeing Your Doctor
You should contact your doctor if you notice any eye symptoms, or are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, especially if you have:
Regular eye injections
Loss of vision or changes like blank spots or flashes
Painful or red eyes, headache, nausea, and vomiting
Be sure to contact your doctor and schedule a test if you’ve had contact with people who are sick. Your doctor may suggest a virtual visit over your computer or smartphone.
At Hillmoor Optical, your health and vision is our number one priority. A mask policy is in place. Counters and work areas are thoroughly disinfected. Hands are washed between customers and eyeglass frames are UV sanitized.
Together we’ll get through this challenging time so we can direct our focus toward a brighter future.
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Sources: webmd.com / hscnews.usc
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