How Can Covid And Living Through A Pandemic Affect Your Eye Health?

Seeing as we’ve been dealing with it for years now, it’s easy to underestimate the symptoms of Covid-19

But the virus is more sophisticated and complicated than we initially thought, and health experts are discovering more information about it everyday.

Doctors are warning that we’re not complacent when it comes to the link between Covid-19 and our eye health – research has found that not only can a compromised immune system make you more susceptible to eye infection, issues with your eyes are also a symptom of the virus itself.

GLAMOUR asked Dr Nisa Aslam, GP and ambassador for eye care treatment brand Golden Eye all the questions that need answering about the link between Covid and your eye health.

How is Covid linked with our eyes, and can it infect them?

“While Covid-19 is commonly associated with infection of the lungs, heart and other vital organs, a growing body of evidence suggests that a Covid-19 infection can also impact the eye,” Dr Aslam says. “Approximately 1 in 10 people exposed to Covid-19 experience at least one eye problem, such as dryness, redness, blurred vision and sensitivity to light.”

She adds that conjunctivitis can be either a symptom of side effect of Covid. “It may appear in the early stages of Covid infection,” she says. This is partially because you could catch the virus through your eyes themselves.

Dr Aslam suggests that conjunctivitis “could be a symptom of the Omicron variant specifically”. It may also be that your eyes may be the only part of your body that faces symptoms. “Case studies have found that conjunctivitis is present in people who test positive for coronavirus, even if they are otherwise asymptomatic,” Dr Aslam says.

How exactly do we catch Covid through our eyes?

“Covid variants enter the body through cell receptors and some of these are present in the eye,” Dr Aslam explains. “These receptors are found in different parts of the eye – cells that line the retina, whites of the eye and eyelid.”

What symptoms should I be looking for?

Dr Aslam recommends looking out for the following:

  • The white of one or both of your eyes looking red or pink
  • Your eyelids are inflamed and sore
  • One or both of your eyes feeling gritty and/or itchy
  • White or yellow sticky discharge coming from one or both of your eyes

Are our eyes more susceptible to infection and poor health since the pandemic?

Unsurprisingly, our screen time usage soared once the pandemic began and lockdown rules tightened. With nowhere else to go, many of us sought refuge in TV shows, WhatsApp chats and extended WFH hours

Dr Aslam warns that increased screen time will impact our eye health. “Sitting in front of a screen all day may cause us to blink less often. This can present a big problem for the eyes as blinking is essential to spread tears over the ocular surface,” she says.