Covid symptoms: Link between eye inflammation and COVID-19 – expert weighs in

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Leading eye expert warns that there is a long term risk of eye problems following COVID-19 and has some advice for people here that might be experiencing.

The London Ophthalmology Centre (LondonOC) reports an increase in numbers of people attending with inflammation and pain in and around the eye following cases of Covid-19.

Mr Vik Sharma, Clinical Director and Consultant Ophthalmologist, Cataract and Glaucoma Specialist at the Royal Free NHS Hospital, London said: “Covid seems to be effecting the eyes in various and mysterious ways.

“Firstly, I have seen patients myself, and heard many reports from colleagues, about people who report inflammation in the eyes with active COVID-19 infections.

“Secondly, people with long-covid, or having had a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the past, have complained of blepharitis and eye pain sometime after the Covid-19 infection has passed.

“We do not yet have sufficient scientific data; however, people should be aware and seek treatment for their eye conditions.”

The COVID-19 virus may cause eye problems such as enlarged, red blood vessels, swollen eyelids, excessive watering and increased discharge.

“Your eyes are lined by mucous membranes, a thick protective fluid,” explains Optimax. “Primarily, this membrane is to stop dirt and grit from entering your body through the eyes, as well as ensuring that your eyes stay well hydrated.

“However, with COVID-19, this mucous membrane becomes an easy point of access for the virus to enter your body.”

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Scientific reports to date record ‘soreness in the eye’ as being associated with COVID-19.

A recent study of 83 people by BMJ Open Ophthalmology reports the most common COVID-19 eye symptoms were photophobia (18 percent), sore eyes (16 percent) and itchy eyes (17 percent) concluding that the most significant ocular symptom experienced by people suffering from COVID-19 was sore eyes. 

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has also identified cases of a rare but severe eye inflammation called keratitis leading to a severe inflammatory condition, endophthalmitis in three patients with COVID-19.

A report published in March in JAMA Ophthalmology found nearly one-third of a small sample of patients with COVID-19 in Hubei province, China, had “ocular manifestations” consistent with pink eye.

Most who experienced these eye symptoms had severe cases of COVID-19.

Only one patient presented with conjunctivitis as the first symptom.

At the beginning of the pandemic, experts revealed while most people are infected by COVID-19 through their nose or mouth, the virus can also enter your system through your eyes.

Mr Sharma added: “An optician may be able to diagnose blepharitis which needs a microscope (slit lamp) to pick up the eyelid signs.

“Most GP practices will not have access to such equipment.

“An Ophthalmologist can examine the eyes most thoroughly to exclude any serious causes of eye pain.

“Eye exercises are not proven beneficial for blepharitis or eye pain.

“This can help to stabilise the tear film on the surface of the eye making the eyes more comfortable. This will also help to improve vision.”
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