Sore eyes a significant ocular manifestation of COVID-19
Sore eyes represent a significant ocular symptom in patients with COVID-19, according to a study published in BMJ Open Ophthalmology.
Of 83 participants with COVID-19 who self-reported anterior segment symptoms, 18% had photophobia, 16% had sore eyes, and 17% had itchy eyes.
The frequency of sore eyes was significantly greater during a COVID-19 state than a pre-COVID-19 state (P = .002). Frequency of other symptoms associated with conjunctivitis, such as mucus discharge and gritty eyes linked to bacterial infection, did not reach statistical significance.
Healio/OSN spoke with Shahina Pardhan, PhD, director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute, Anglia Ruskin University School of Medicine, Cambridge, U.K., about the research she co-authored.
Question: Why is this research important?
Answer: It is known that the eye can be involved during COVID-19 infection. The term “conjunctivitis” has been used frequently, but conjunctivitis is a broad term, and it can represent many symptoms in the eye, some of which are not shown at all with COVID-19 infection. Our research specifies which eye symptoms were experienced during COVID-19 infection.
Q: Do your findings meaningfully affect current treatment?
A: Yes, as other symptoms of the eye, such as mucopurulent discharge, are not associated with virus infection and need different type of treatment as it is linked to bacterial conjunctivitis needing antibiotics.
Q: Can “sore eyes” be characterized?
A: Sore eyes are when the eyes feel uncomfortable or sore. The eye symptoms linked to COVID-19 are not mucus discharge or dry eyes or lumps and bumps on the eyelid. Our research showed that light sensitivity and watery eyes were also important.
Q: Why are light sensitivity and watering important?
A: They suggest viral infection rather than bacterial infection.
Q: How do your findings inform future research?
A: We need to ascertain how exactly the eye transmits the virus, what pathways are involved in the transmission, and why it affects some people and not others. Could it be that people who did not have the eye symptoms were spectacle wearers, for example, offering some protection?
Q: What else would you like to say?
A: We know that around 16% of people have ocular symptoms, and our research suggests that these are felt by people at around the same time as other COVID-19 symptoms, and they last for just as long. It is therefore important that, in addition to a mask, eyes should be protected as well to reduce the risk of the virus entering the eye.