Eye Problems Common in COVID-19 Patients

December 14, 2020
Christine Blank

The study investigates the various eye symptoms indicative of conjunctivitis in relation to COVID-19.

In the first study of its kind, researchers found a majority of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) also experience eye issues such as sore eyes and light sensitivity.

In fact, 81% of COVID-19 patients reported ocular issues within two weeks of other disease-related symptoms, according to the new research published in the journal BMJ Open Ophthalmology. Of those, 80% said their eye problems lasted less than two weeks.

“This is the first study to investigate the various eye symptoms indicative of conjunctivitis in relation to COVID-19, their time frame in relation to other well-known COVID-19 symptoms, and their duration,” lead author Shahina Pardhan, Ph.D., professor and director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, U.K., said in a press release.

Sore eyes were significantly more common when the participants had COVID-19, with 16% reporting the issue as one of their symptoms. Only 5% reported having had the condition beforehand, according to a survey of 83 people.

While 18% of patients reported suffering from photophobia (light sensitivity) as one of their symptoms, this was only a 5% increase from their pre-COVID-19 state.

Seventeen percent also had itchy eyes.

The most common reported symptoms overall were fatigue (suffered by 90% of respondents), a fever (76%), and a dry cough (66%).

“While it is important that ocular symptoms are included in the list of possible COVID-19 symptoms, we argue that sore eyes should replace ‘conjunctivitis’ as it is important to differentiate from symptoms of other types of infections, such as bacterial infections, which manifest as mucous discharge or gritty eyes,” Pardhan said.

“This study is important because it helps us understand more about how COVID-19 can infect the conjunctiva and how this then allows the virus to spread through the body,” Pardhan added.