How does COVID-19 affect the eyes?

Does COVID-19 affect the eyes

How does COVID-19 affect the eyes?

Much has been talked about regarding the wide variety of symptoms associated with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). While we are still learning about the various systems in our body that can be affected, we are just beginning to understand how the disease affects the eyes.

Recent research has shown us that the virus is transmitted through respiratory droplets and can be absorbed or spread through the surface of the eye. This is because the eyes are the only area of our body that are completely exposed to the environment (not protected by skin). It is important to be aware of signs that could be associated with COVID-19.

Ocular symptoms that have been reported:

  • Red eyes – redness can be due to a viral cause (like COVID-19), bacteria, allergies, dry eyes, or a wide variety of other causes.
  • Excessive tearing – may be associated with any inflammation or infection in the eyes. Oftentimes the eyes will tear up because they are trying to remove something irritating them, whether that be an eyelash, allergen, or a virus.
  • Others that may be associated: discharge from eyes, eye rubbing in children

What does the Optometrist see if you have covid?

  • Conjunctivitis – general term for inflammation of the conjunctiva, or top layer on the “white” of our eyes.
  • Follicles – bumps on the inside of the eyelid often associated with viral infection
  • Epiphora – clinical term for excessive tearing
  • Swollen lymph nodes- the lymphatic system is one of the ways your body helps fight infection. You have nodes in front of your ears and below your jaw that can become swollen with a viral infection.

Can it be treated?

There are no treatments for viral eye infections. We can help diagnose and soothe the eyes as we can only treat symptoms associated. The most important thing is to be evaluated and confirm a diagnosis of viral conjunctivitis to determine if you need to be tested for COVID-19 and isolated.

Reach out to your eye doctor if you think you have irritated, red, watery eyes to be evaluated. Schedule your appointment online or call our office.


Dr. Brianna Rhue
Dr. Brianna Rhue
FAAO Board Certified Optometric Physician
West Broward Eyecare Associates
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