The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on our lives and our health. While we are familiar with the respiratory symptoms associated with the virus, did you know that it can also affect your vision and overall eye health? While it’s not yet fully understood how, several studies have suggested the virus can cause a range of vision and eye health issues.
Sometimes referred to as “pink eye”, some people with COVID-19 may develop conjunctivitis. This is an inflammation of the thin, clear layer of tissue that covers the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelids. Conjunctivitis can cause redness, swelling, itching, and discharge from the eye. While most cases of conjunctivitis are mild and clear up on their own within a few days, some people may require medical treatment.
In rare cases, COVID-19 can lead to optic neuropathy, a condition that affects the optic nerve. Your optic nerve is responsible for transmitting visual information from the eyes to the brain. Optic neuropathy can cause partial or complete loss of vision, depending on the severity and extent of the damage to the optic nerve.
Another eye health issue that has been associated with COVID-19 is dry eye syndrome. This is a condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tears, or the tears evaporate too quickly, causing discomfort and irritation. Spending long hours looking at computer screens or wearing contact lenses are associated with increased risk of the ocular surface disease. Use of personal protective equipment, such as masks or goggles may exacerbate chronic dry eye symptoms.
In addition to these immediate effects on eye health, there may be longer-term consequences of COVID-19 on vision. Some studies have suggested that the virus can cause damage to the blood vessels in the eyes, which can lead to vision loss over time. This damage can occur even in people who have no history of eye problems or pre-existing conditions.
At Kopolow & Girisgen, Doctors of Optometry, our caring doctors are well-versed in a range of eye issues, including those caused by COVID-19. Be sure to stay on top of your eye health with an annual comprehensive eye exam. It’s easier than ever to schedule your annual eye exam now below or by texting GLASSES to 21000.