The Latest Science on Covid-19 and the Eyes

How does the virus affect the eyes, and can you catch the virus through your eyes?

Shin Jie Yong, MSc (Res)
Elemental
Published in
5 min readJul 13, 2020

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Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Despite the fact that Covid-19 is a pulmonary disease, it can affect almost every part of the body. Systemic diseases work systematically, after all. With millions of cases worldwide, we are beginning to see more Covid-19 oddities, including its impact on the eyes. While evidence remains limited, what have scientists uncovered about Covid-19 eye pathology?

How Covid-19 affects the eyes

A paper on the topic of Covid-19 and the eyes was published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology in June. Researchers in Turkey examined 93 hospitalized patients with Covid-19, 20 of whom (21.5%) presented at least one of the following ocular (eye) symptoms:

  • Hyperemia (red eye): 20 (21.5% of patients)
  • Epiphora (excessive tear flow): 9 (9.7% of patients)
  • Increased secretion (of green or yellow eye fluid): 6 (6.5% of patients)
  • Chemosis (swelling of conjunctiva): 3 (3.2% of patients)
  • Follicular conjunctivitis (more severe chemosis): 8 (8.6% of patients)
  • Episcleritis (inflammation of eye sclera): 2 (2.2% of patients)
  • Photophobia (intolerance to light): 15 (16.1% of patients)
  • Itchiness: 13 (15.7% of patients)
  • Burning sensation: 7 (8.4% of patients)
  • Gritty feeling (eye irritation that feels like sand): 5 (6.0% of patients)
  • Blurred vision: 4 (4.8% of patients)

The paper’s authors noted that risk factors for Covid-19 ocular problems were old age, high fever, and elevated biomarkers of systemic inflammation (i.e., neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio, C-reactive protein, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate). However, the researchers did not examine other disease outcomes in Covid-19 patients with ocular problems, such as hospital stay or death rate.

With millions of cases worldwide, we are beginning to see more Covid-19 oddities, including its impact on the eyes.

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Shin Jie Yong, MSc (Res)
Elemental

Named Standford's world top 1% scientists | Independent science writer and researcher | Medium boost program's nominator | Powerlifter with national records