Can Pink Eye Be A Symptom Of Covid-19?

Can Pink Eye Be A Symptom Of Covid-19?

Pink Eye A Symptom Of Covid-19

What Is Coronavirus?

A Coronavirus is a virus that causes respiratory infections that can range from the common cold to more severe respiratory illnesses. A new strain of coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused the pandemic of respiratory tract infection called Covid-19 (coronavirus disease of 2019).

Coronavirus is found to be spherical and contains RNA as the genetic material. This virus is transmitted through the air by coughing and sneezing, close contact with an infected patient, touching an object or surface contaminated with the virus and then touching the nose, mouth or eyes and rarely, by fecal contamination.

[Also Read: Tips to manage coronavirus stress]


Symptoms Of Coronavirus

Primary symptoms of coronavirus include;

Less Frequent Symptoms Include;

  • Chills and sometimes repeated shaking along with chills
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea or vomiting

Can Pink Eyes Be A Symptom Of Covid-19?

Yes! Pink eye can be a symptom of Covid-19 infection. Pink eye also referred to as conjunctivitis, has been reported in 1-3% of people with Covid-19 infection. Pink eye is caused when the coronavirus infects conjunctiva, the tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid, and covers the white part of the eyes.


Covid-19 Eye Symptoms

The eye symptoms caused by Covid-19 infection are;

1. Pink Eye

Inflammation of the conjunctiva that leads to redness and swelling of the eyes

2. Chemosis

Swelling of the conjunctiva that can be a symptom of pink eyes or a general sign of eye irritation.

3. Epiphora

Excessive tearing or watering of the eye. Increase in the eye secretion (eye secretion refers to the oily film that helps keep the eyes lubricated)


What Is The Link Between Covid-19 And Eye Symptoms?

Pink eye and other symptoms can be ocular manifestations of Covid-19 infection. People with a pink eye should, therefore, be considered highly suspicious for the Covid-19 virus.

Studies have shown the virus in tears and conjunctival swabs of Covid-19 patients and that the virus can be transmitted through the eyes. These patients may shed virus from their ocular surface. If they rub and touch their eyes and then touch other people or other surfaces, the virus spreads. The virus can be transmitted from the eyes to the nasal cavity and the respiratory tract through the connecting tear ducts.

The coronavirus virus causes symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or pink eye that can be seen between 2 -14 days after exposure to the virus. Several cases of Covid-19 have been reported with eye symptoms such as redness and irritation.


What To Do If You Have A Pink Eye?

Pink eyes can be an early sign of the Covid-19 virus in some patients. It is therefore imperative to watch out for fever and respiratory symptoms. You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the Covid-19 symptoms along with the pink eye.

There is no treatment available for the pink eye caused by the Covid-19 virus like any other virus. It normally subsides on its own in one to two weeks. If symptoms persist contact your ophthalmologist, in general, he/she may recommend medication to ease any discomfort, lubricating eye drops or artificial tears to soothe the irritated eye and warm compress for the eyes to help relieve the symptoms.


How Can The Virus Get Into The Eyes?

When infected people cough, sneeze, or even talk, the airborne respiratory droplets are sprayed from their mouth or nose onto the face of nearby people. These tiny droplets enter the body when breathed in through mouth or nose. But these droplets can also enter the body through the eyes as eyes are also directly exposed. One can also become infected by touching his/her eyes after touching the objects or surfaces that contain the virus.

Mechanism Of Entry - The coronavirus binds to human cells through its spike glycoproteins which interact with Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE-2) receptors in the membranes of many cells in the body. These ACE-2 receptors are highly expressed in the cells of the respiratory tract and the lungs leading to viral entry and causing respiratory symptoms of the disease. Studies have shown that eyes also produce ACE-2 receptors, making them a target for viral entry and causing pink eye and other eye symptoms.


Tips To Protect Your Eyes From Covid-19

Here is how you can protect your eyes from airborne respiratory droplets and reduce the chances of contracting the Covid-19 virus;

  • Avoid rubbing and touching your eyes to help reduce your risk of infection. If your eyes are itchy or you want to adjust your spectacles, consider using tissue instead of fingers. If you cannot avoid touching your eyes for example when you administer eye medicine, ensure that you first wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Try using glasses instead of contact lenses as wearing contact lenses require frequent touching of your eyes for the lens insertion and removal.
  • Consider wearing safety glasses in case you are treating or caring for a Covid-19 patient. Normal glasses add a layer of protection but do not provide complete safety because the area around your eyes remains exposed.
  • Follow the recommended precautionary practices such as washing hands frequently, maintaining good contact lens hygiene, wearing protective facial masks, and social distancing.

Tips To Protect From Coronavirus

  • Clean your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Avoid close contact or maintain a safe distance of 6 feet from anyone who is sick, coughing, or sneezing. Social distancing helps you a lot not to get infected.
  • Wear a protective mask when you cannot avoid physical distancing.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, or eyes without washing hands
  • Consider staying at home when you are sick
  • While coughing, or sneezing, cover your nose or mouth with your bent elbow or a tissue. Dispose of the tissue promptly and wash your hands.
  • Make sure to clean and disinfect frequently touched objects or surfaces
  • Seek medical attention if you have symptoms such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing

Author:

Vasavi Attada

Vasavi Attada specializes in creating content for the Medical/healthcare domain. She has written articles for Indian Health Organization (IHO), American Diabetes Association, and for magazines such as India Today and Dignity Dialogue.

Vasavi Attada holds a Master’s degree in Microbiology from Bangalore University.