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What You Should Know About Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Your Eyes

by Damion Wasylow 1 April 2020 05:28 AM

rendering of microscopic covid-19 virus
The current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is impacting lives around the globe. While most people understand that it can be spread by coming into contact with infected respiratory droplets through the mouth or nose, few realize their eyes may also be susceptible.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it may be possible to contract coronavirus (COVID-19) through the eyes, as mucous membranes (membranes that line various body orifices) are most susceptible to transmission of the virus. While the CDC suggests transmission via the eyes, “is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,”, health officials, including those at the Cleveland Clinic, recommend people should avoid touching their eyes with unwashed hands.

Even though the incidence rate is low, the World Health Organization recommends protective eyewear for anyone with the potential of being exposed to a person with coronavirus.

Additionally, there is evidence to suggest that conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye, may be a symptom in some people infected with coronavirus (COV-19). A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found “conjunctival congestion” in approximately 1% patients with a confirmed diagnosis of coronavirus.

Supporting that finding, a paper published in the Journal Ocular Immunology and Inflammation cited anecdotal reports of ocular infection, saying “the ocular implications of human CoV (coronavirus) infections have not been widely studied. However, CoVs have been known to cause various ocular infections in animals.”

While the correlation between conjunctivitis and coronavirus (COVID-19) is not yet fully known, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends, “Patients who present to ophthalmologists for conjunctivitis who also have fever and respiratory symptoms including cough and shortness of breath, and who have recently traveled internationally, particularly to areas with known outbreaks (China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, or to hotspots within the United States), or with family members recently back from one of these areas, could represent cases of COVID-19.”

With all this in mind, we encourage you to make smart judgments. If you’re going to be in close contact with someone who likely has coronavirus (COVID-19), wear appropriate eye protection to reduce the risk of transmission. And if you or someone you love experiences conjunctivitis along with the other symptoms cited by the American Academy of Ophthalmologists, look into being tested for coronavirus (COVID-19). 

At North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care, we wish all of you the best as we navigate this pandemic together. If you have a vision emergency during this time, we are here to help. Check out our coronavirus (COVID-19) information page to learn more about our current diagnosis and treatment services or call 352-373-4300 today.



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