The list of symptoms of the coronavirus is long, although most of them can appear in other medical conditions as well. Therefore, a positive diagnosis requires a PCR test.
The virus has been shown to affect the eyes, with healthcare workers describing patients with COVID-19 with red eyes or pink eye symptoms.
A study details the case of a young woman whose main reason for going to the doctor was redness and discharge in the eye, a condition doctors later diagnosed as keratoconjunctivitis.
The patient had mild respiratory symptoms and did not initially qualify for a COVID-19 test. After several visits to ophthalmologists, she was finally tested, with samples from her eye also testing positive for the virus.
The clinical presentation of COVID-19 can include a variety of symptoms, but not all patients have the same signs and many infected people are asymptomatic. The new coronavirus does not even display as many specific signs that would allow doctors to diagnose infectious disease without a PCR test. Sudden loss of smell and taste is one of those unique symptoms that can appear after a COVID-19 infection. But not for everyone.
This is not the only downside to these non-specific symptoms of COVID-19. You might panic anytime you encounter a potential symptom of COVID-19 because you will have no way of knowing if it’s the virus or something else. Only a test can give you peace of mind, as the virus can infect various parts of the body, not just the lungs. The eye is a place where the virus can multiply, giving you a red eye or a pink eye that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with COVID-19. However, you should definitely be aware of this possibility, as this manifestation of COVID-19 could be serious and could even impact your eyesight.
A nurse in Kirkland, Wash., Said in late March that every patient she saw after testing positive for coronavirus had red eyes. They called the phenomenon “allergic eyes” because allergies can give you the same condition. Other healthcare workers noticed the same symptom in Canada in early March, detailing a case of keratoconjunctivitis in a 29-year-old patient who showed no other major signs of COVID-19 infection. The study was published in the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology.
The young woman spent a month in the Philippines and a day in San Francisco before returning to Canada. After a day of conjunctivitis, a clear watery discharge, and photophobia in her right eye, she went to an ophthalmologist. Other symptoms included rhinorrhea, cough, and nasal congestion, which we now know can be caused by COVID-19. She didn’t have a fever, but the over-the-counter medication she took may have masked it.
She returned on February 29 and went to the hospital several times in early March with worsening eye symptoms. She was diagnosed with keratoconjunctivitis, a complex eye condition.
The anatomy of the human eye. Image source: macrovector / Adobe
As the name suggests, the diagnosis consists of two distinct elements. Keratitis is the inflammation of the cornea or the transparent part of the eye in front of the pupil and iris. Conjunctivitis, on the other hand, is the inflammation of the transparent tissue that covers the white of the eye and the surface of the eyelid. In either case, you can call it red eye or pink eye – the illustration above shows the anatomy of the eye.
Now here is an image of the patient’s eye taken before her second visit on March 5:
From the study: “External photograph of the patient’s right eye before the second visit (March 5) to the eye clinic showing a marked conjunctival injection and watery discharge. Photograph provided by patient (used with permission). Image Source: The Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology
His sight was not altered after the first two visits, but by March 5 his vision had started to drop from 20/20 visual acuity to “20/40 pinhole at 20/30”. Further examinations revealed epithelial lesions and the patient continued the treatment prescribed for her condition. She was not eligible for the COVID-19 test under Canadian protocols at the time, but doctors had taken eye swabs to test for chlamydia, gonorrhea and bacterial culture. The tests were negative, but the tests were then used to check for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the eye.
As of March 6, COVID-19 testing in Canada had changed and she qualified for testing. A PCR test on March 8 was positive, and then samples from his eye were also tested, confirming the virus was present for the eye damage.
From the study: “Schematic representation of slit lamp examination results during progressive clinic visits; note the increase in corneal damage over time. Image source: The Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology
“To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of COVID-19 (caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus) with keratoconjunctivitis as the main symptom,” the researchers concluded.
“The patient did not present with conjunctivitis as previously reported for COVID-19 cases, but with keratoconjunctivitis. It was also evident from clinical examinations that epithelial defects varied from examination to examination and appeared as pseudodendritis, possibly due to a healing epithelial defect or perhaps as a progressing subepithelial infiltrate.
“The patient’s main symptom and the reason he repeatedly sought care was a red eye with watery discharge,” the study said. If you are having similar eye problems, you should consider the possibility of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2. The CDC has a full list of coronavirus symptoms that you should check out if you suspect an infection. The New York Times created an interactive infographic that shows the most common symptoms associated with the disease.
Research warns that healthcare workers treating patients who exhibit such symptoms should be aware that a red eye could be an indication of COVID-19. “Patients who have red eyes; respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath; and recently traveled to areas where epidemics are known are more at risk of having COVID-19, ”note the doctors. “Clinical interactions with any patient with similar upper respiratory symptoms should be routinely performed with mouth and eye protection if exposure to the patient’s secretions is possible. In this particular case, five doctors and three health workers had to be placed in isolation for 14 days after the woman was treated.
Chris Smith started writing about gadgets as a hobby, and before he even knew it he was sharing his take on tech with readers around the world. Whenever he doesn’t write about gadgets, he miserably fails to walk away from them, although he desperately tries. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.