Optometry and COVID-19: What You Should Know

When it comes to the coronavirus — COVID-19 — there has been quite a bit of conflicting information in the news and from health experts. What we do know for sure is that your body’s mucous membranes are most susceptible to the virus, and that includes the mucous membranes in your eyes, or the conjunctiva. 

Here at ReVision Optix in Simpsonville and Greenville, South Carolina, Dr. Sean Stevens and Dr. Tiffany Brawner, expert optometrists, discuss what you should know about the link between optometry and COVID-19. While you shouldn’t be alarmed, it’s certainly helpful to understand how the virus could possibly spread through contact with your eyes. With a better understanding, you can take the necessary precautions to avoid illness. 

Coronavirus mainly spreads through respiratory droplets

Experts believe that the coronavirus spreads much like the flu — through airborne respiratory droplets. So, if someone near you sneezes or coughs, the virus becomes airborne and you could potentially breathe in the germs and become infected. When it comes to your eyes, it’s possible that you may infect yourself if you touch your face and eyes after you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus droplets.

This is one of the reasons it’s so important to wash your hands frequently and to avoid touching your face and especially rubbing your eyes. 

Does wearing contacts make you more susceptible to COVID-19?

Since it could be possible to contract the coronavirus by touching your eyes, it makes sense that the more you touch your eyes, the more you may increase your chances of infection. Contact lense wearers touch their eyes more often than those who don’t wear contacts. However, simply wearing contact lenses doesn’t necessarily increase your risk of contracting the illness. 

As a precaution, you may want to wear your glasses instead of your contact lenses so you avoid touching your eyes throughout the day. 

Is there a connection between conjunctivitis and coronavirus?

We are still learning about the symptoms of the coronavirus and how it affects people differently, so it’s hard to confirm a direct connection between conjunctivitis and the coronavirus. Anytime you have a respiratory infection or allergies — not just COVID-19 — your eyes may become red, watery, and inflamed. 

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane that covers your eyeball. This condition is also known as pink eye. Symptoms of pink eye don’t necessarily mean you will test positive for COVID-19. It’s important to consider any other symptoms you may have, such as fever, headache, and decreased sense of smell — common symptoms of the coronavirus

While these symptoms along with conjunctivitis aren’t confirmation that you have COVID-19, if you do have them, it’s a good idea to get tested for the virus. 

Eye problems to be aware of as they relate to COVID-19

A recent study found that nearly 32% of 38 patients with COVID-19 at a hospital in China, also had symptoms relating to their eyes. Although the study is limited, it does suggest a connection between eye symptoms and the coronavirus. One of the most common symptoms among these patients in the study was a condition called epiphora, or excessive tear production. 

Another common symptom was conjunctivitis, and three of these 38 patients had abnormal blood flow to their conjunctiva, which made their eyes appear red. Several patients also experienced eye secretions, though none of them experienced blurred vision or vision loss. 

Your eye health is our top priority

If you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, or you experience eye pain, headaches, and watery, red eyes, you should schedule an eye exam at our Simpsonville or Greenville offices. Additionally, you may want to get tested for the coronavirus if you think you may have been exposed to someone who tested positive, or if you have respiratory symptoms. 

Give our office a call at either of our locations, or book an appointment online today.

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