“Pink eye” is often a symptom of COVID-19
In addition to the appearance of COVID-19, the new coronavirus can also lead to a “pink eye,” and Chinese researchers say the virus can spread through tears.
A new study found that out of 38 patients, 12 were diagnosed with pink eye (conjunctivitis). In two patients, the coronavirus was present in both nasal and ocular fluids.
“Some patients with COVID-19 have ocular symptoms and possibly new coronaviruses are present in the conjunctival secretions of patients with COVID-19,” said researcher Dr. Liang Liang of the Ophthalmology Department at the University of China in Yichang.
The conjunctiva is a thin transparent tissue that covers the outside of the eye and the back of the eyelids. The main function is the secretion of the mucous and liquid part of the tear fluid, which moistens and lubricates the eye.. Liang suggests that the coronavirus may enter the conjunctiva in patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.
This means that the virus can spread if someone rubs an infected eye and then touches someone else — or during an eye exam, the study authors suggested.
According to a report published March 31 in JAMA Ophthalmology, the more severe a patient’s COVID-19 is, the higher the likelihood that they will also have a pink eye.
Given these results, doctors and nurses treating patients with COVID-19 should wear safety glasses, as well as other protective clothing, caps and gloves.
Reacting to the study, a New York City eye doctor said people should take steps to prevent the appearance of a pink eye. This includes avoiding touching their eyes and face and using glasses instead of contact lenses during the coronavirus outbreak.
“Although conjunctivitis is a rare manifestation of this disease, we must take all necessary precautions to prevent conjunctivitis, including frequent hand washing,” said Dr. Prachi Dua, an ophthalmologist at Manhattan Hospital.
“Patients and doctors should be aware that COVID-19 can manifest with red eyes, swelling and watery eyes,” she added. “These patients should seek appropriate care to properly diagnose and prevent transmission.”
This means that the virus can spread through the tears of people, a doctor examining your eye, or a person rubbing their eyes and then touching someone else.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends against regular eye examinations during a pandemic.
“People can wait a month or two to get a routine eye exam,” says Dr. Alfred Sommer, professor of epidemiology and international health, adding: “You can get a new pair of glasses prescribed at any time, you don’t have to do it in the midst of an epidemic.”
Of course, he added, emergencies that can affect vision should be treated immediately.