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Covid-19 and Dry Eye

Covid-19 has brought a host of sensory-related issues with it. The most well-known is a patient’s loss of smell and taste. Over 10% of people suffering from Covid-19 have also reported eye problems. Symptoms may be even more marked in patients with pre-existing dry eye syndrome or inadequate tear film.

Even without testing positive, rates of dry eye have increased. One theory is that people have been looking at screens much more during the pandemic. Science suggests that screen use lowers the blink rate, which causes more prevalence of dry eye. Another theory shows that ill-fitting masks can send air streams to the eyes, causing further evaporation of fluids in the tear film, leading to dry eye symptoms.

Most Common Symptoms and Conditions

Dry eye and foreign body sensations are the most common manifestations of Covid-19. Patients have also reported redness, tearing, itching, eye pain, and tearing.

Conjunctivitis (AKA Pink Eye) is the most common eye-related condition seen with Covid. It presents with fever, eye redness and itching, swelling, irritation, sticky discharge in the eyes and lashes, blurry vision, sensitivity to light, foreign body sensation, tearing, and chemosis (which looks like a big blister on the eye).

It can be very uncomfortable, poor-looking, and contagious. It’s less common to have conjunctivitis as a standalone symptom of Covid-19. However, since it does happen, it’s a great idea to get tested if you have these symptoms.

What’s Covid eye?

Orbital cellulitis is a bacterial infection in the eye socket due to an infection in the bloodstream, sinusitis, or blood clots traveling to the eye. It’s dramatic looking with symptoms of redness and swelling, bulging eyes, blurry vision, fever, and eye movement issues. If not treated quickly and aggressively enough, it can lead to blindness. It arises in Covid-19 due to the patient’s weakened immune system.

Severe effects on the eye

Growing evidence suggests there may be a link between Covid-19 and severe eye diseases. One theory is that due to the viral effect on the sense organs and the blood-clotting nature of Covid-19, there’s been an increase in severe yet rare conditions affecting the retina, optic nerve, and visual cortex (higher than usual incidence of stroke), and more. What is most concerning is that these conditions are present in younger patients and those with no known risk factors.

If you or a loved one are experiencing new or unusual eye problems, get them checked out immediately, along with a test for Covid-19.

The available information suggests a link between eye diseases and Covid-19. Most Covid-19 patients with eye issues will present with mild yet irritating symptoms. The rare few may have more severe eye disorders to manage.

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