COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, and there are many things we don’t know. One thing we have learned so far is that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, can affect the eyes. Here’s what ophthalmologist Dr. Randa Garrana at Advanced Lasik in New York City, Long Beach, California, and Pasadena, California, wants you to know.
How COVID-19 affects the eyes
Some people with COVID-19 may get conjunctivitis. The conjunctiva is the transparent membrane that lines the whites of your eyes and eyelids. When this membrane is inflamed or infected, you may be diagnosed with conjunctivitis. This is a common eye infection also known as pink eye. You can get pink eye in one or both eyes. Symptoms include:
- A gritty feeling
- Crust that makes it hard to open your eye(s)
Don’t panic if you have these symptoms. It can be related to COVID-19 but more likely it’s caused by a different virus, bacteria, or chemicals. It could also be an allergic reaction.
How does COVID-19 get into an eye?
This coronavirus spread through droplets from a sneeze or cough. The virus particles enter your body through the mucous membranes in your nose, mouth, and eyes. You can also get it by touching infected surfaces and then rubbing or touching your eyes.
How to protect yourself
Keep six feet apart from others when you go out, wear a mask, and wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds. Also, try hard not to touch your eyes. COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiratory droplets, but it can live on surfaces for a few days.
If you need to apply eye makeup, wash your hands first. If you have glasses, try wearing them instead of contact lenses for a while. That way you’re not touching your eyes as often.
How to protect others
COVID-19 is highly contagious. If you have pink eye related to this coronavirus, don’t touch your eyes and then touch other people or surfaces. You could spread the virus to others if not careful. Pink eye is also contagious whether it’s caused by COVID-19 or not, so practice good health habits and wash your hands often.
If we diagnose you with pink eye, you’ll need to use medicated drops and warm compresses on your eyes. Remember to wash your hands as soon as you’re done.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, call your primary care doctor. If you’re having problems with your eyes, contact us to schedule an appointment with Dr. Garrana today.