In just a few months, the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19), a serious respiratory syndrome, has become a pandemic. Despite there being more than 6 million people affected worldwide, little is known about the effects of this virus on the eyes. International researchers are joining forces to better understand the eye complaints caused by Covid-19, and thus facilitate the diagnosis and prevention of this disease.
The results published to date agree that the virus may cause eye issues in the form of conjunctivitis, with reddening of the conjunctiva, dry eyes, eye watering and an increase in discharge. In addition, researchers at the Barraquer Ophthalmology Centre have recently diagnosed the first case of episcleritis (inflammation of the membrane tissue colloquially known as the white of the eye) due to COVID-19.
Eye issues appear in 3% of severely ill patients and in 0.7% of mild cases of Covid-19. The virus may be in the tears, even without any eye manifestations.
In an analysis of 1167 cases, Dr. Loffredo and other doctors describe that eye issues occur in 3% of patients who are severely ill and in 0.7% of mild cases. According to a study by Dr. Saeed and others, 7% of the cases diagnosed presented the virus in the tears, even in the absence of eye manifestations. For this reason, the route of transmission through eye discharge is considered a potential route.
Ophthalmologists should take special care during clinical examinations, both because of their proximity to the patient’s nose and mouth as well as the conjunctiva and the tears, as person to person spread appears to be a more significant route of transmission. Therefore, it is necessary to take specific preventive measures, such as the use of protective glasses, apart from the general measures that include strict hand hygiene and protection using a mask and gloves.