Doctor’s Note: Are Eye Infections a Symptom of Coronavirus? Read Complete Guideline

There have been a variety of well-documented coronavirus symptoms, including sore throat, dry coughing and high fever, loss of taste and odor. In certain patients who have contracted the virus, conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) now seems to have been identified as another symptom.

Recently, a nurse told news reporters in the United States that she and her colleagues from a Life Care Center in Washington, DC suspected that conjunctivitis could in fact be a significant tell-tale sign that someone has contracted COVID-19.

The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pandemic of 2003, which also involved a strain of coronavirus, reinforced that the eye can, in fact, transmit infection.

How it Works?

Conjunctivitis is the inflammation or swelling of the conjunctiva, the thin layer of tissue that lines the inner surface of the eyelid.

Conjunctivitis is typically caused by a viral or bacterial infection, but it can also develop due to acute allergic reactions or environmental irritants like pollen.

The same viruses that cause the common cold and influenza can cause conjunctivitis.

When you are sick, you can spread the infection to your eye through physical contact, such as sneezing into your hand and then rubbing your eye. This is also true for the COVID-19 virus. This is why health officials recommend that you wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.

When you wash your hands with soap and warm water, you not only decrease the chance of transmission, you also increase the odds of killing the virus.

How Do You Know If You Have Conjunctivitis?

You may have conjunctivitis if you have pink or red eyes, increased tear production, itching, irritation, burning, discharge, and/or crusting of the eyelids or eyelashes, especially upon awakening.

The discharge from the eye may be more watery, rather than thick or mucousy, and the infection typically starts in one eye and then spreads to the other because it is highly contagious.

When to Worry?

Although conjunctivitis has been reported in only 1 percent of COVID-19 patients, it is important to note that if you have conjunctivitis coupled with respiratory symptoms and a fever, you may have contracted the coronavirus.

Call your physician before visiting the doctor’s office so that you avoid transmitting the virus to others.

How to Prevent the Spread and Protect Yourself?

As described above, it is important to wash your hands often and to avoid touching your face, especially after you have come into contact with public or shared surfaces.

The virus can also spread through aerosol transmission in pathogenic droplets – which have been sneezed or coughed out by someone carrying the virus – in the air, tears and other ocular secretions.

Therefore, it is critical to protect yourself at home as well. Do not share eye drops, contact lens cleaner or cosmetics with other people, and do not share a toilet with a person who has symptoms of COVID-19.

Wash your pillow covers, face towels and hand towels, and throw away any makeup that has been used while you were symptomatic, or that you used in the days prior to the onset of symptoms. As we have learned, coronavirus can last anywhere from hours to days on the surface of objects.    

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