The novel coronavirus started as an outbreak in Wuhan and spread from there to the rest of the world. The lungs are the site primarily affected by COVID‐19 and the severe form of the disease is characterised by severe pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Many COVID-19 patients have described problems with their eyes leading to speculation about whether COVID-19 is spread through the eyes.
In a study published in Wiley Online Library, conjunctivitis and COVID-19 was further investigated.
The study noted: “The respiratory tract probably is not the only transmission route for this viral infection; some authors hypothesised that COVID‐19 droplets, or infected hands, can also contaminate the conjunctiva, that could represent the initial site of a spread infection.
“The conjunctivitis, also called ‘Pink eye,’ is a frequent disease and its etiology could be bacterial or viral.
“This has been previously described as associated to coronavirus infection in humans and animals.
“Recent studies showed that conjunctivitis could be a manifestation of COVID‐19.
“Because the eye could be considered as a direct potential portal of entry for the virus, it is of interest to analyse the association between conjunctivitis and the severity of COVID‐19.
“In conclusion, the results of this meta‐analysis show that conjunctivitis may represent a sign of COVID‐19 infection associated to a more severe form of disease and suggest the use of protective equipment for all people potentially exposed to infected subjects.”
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Typical symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
Bloodshot eyesBurning or gritty feelingDischarge from one or both eyesPus that sticks to the eyelashesItchiness and rednessExcessive watering
Can the virus be spread through the eyes
The conjunctiva is a mucous membrane which covers the surface of the eye, said Specsavers.
The site continued: “If viral particles, such as the coronavirus, come into contact with it (for example, from a sneeze, cough or touching your eyes with unclean hands), this could result in an individual becoming infected.
“This is because coronavirus latches onto ACE-2 receptors on the cells of the conjunctiva, similar receptors are found in the respiratory tract and lungs.
“These cell surface receptors act as a gateway into cells themselves, leading to the virus entering the body.”
The virus that causes COVID-19 is highly contagious and can result in either mild or severe illness.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the symptoms include:
FeverDry coughFatigueAches and painsHeadacheNasal congestionSore throatDiarrhoea