Authors: Parmita Uniyal Only My Health April 2022
Apart from the common symptoms of Covid-19, pink eye or conjunctivitis is seen in 1-3% of people suffering from the deadly virus. The eyes of the patients displaying this symptom tend to become slightly painful and red with pricking sensation and watering. With time, ophthalmologists are gaining more insight on the disease and the impact it can have on eyes. It has now emerged that COVID-19 can actually lead to a variety of eye complications which may affect retina as well as its nerve. In some cases, the patient may completely lose vision or it may get deteriorated. It can also lead to permanent and irreversible damage to the eye. Timely treatment is the key and in most of the cases, the condition will improve with proper medication.
Dr. Bhanu Prakash, Sr. Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr. Agarwals Eye Hospital talks about the Covid-19 complications that can also result in vision loss and irreversible damage to the eye.
How Covid-19 Can Result In Total Or Partial Vision Loss
Apart from the pink eye, there are some other concerning eye-related issues that the Covid-19 patients are facing. The issues if not addressed on time can cause permanent damage to eyes. According to Dr. Prakash, the disease may affect retina as well as its nerve and can lead to formation of blood clots in the patient’s body which can in turn block blood vessels in the retina. “The patient may not notice anything wrong if the blocked blood vessel is minor or carries deoxygenated blood. However, in some cases, the main blood vessel carrying oxygenated blood to the eyes gets impacted by the virus, leading to deterioration or total loss of the patient’s vision,” he says.
How Covid-19 Can Cause Retinitis or Localized Inflammation
Blocked blood vessels are not the only eye morbidity associated with Covid. Some patients may develop localized inflammation called retinitis. According to American Society of Retina Specials, infectious retinitis is an inflammation of the retina resulting from infection by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites. This is again treatable with medicines or injections.
How It Can Be Treated
While the prospect of permanent eye damage may be scary, timely treatment of the condition can help in most of the cases. Timely diagnosis and proper management of the condition is the key.
If the patient reaches an ophthalmologist within 6 hours of vision loss, his or her sight can be saved. With prompt action, blood circulation in the eyes can be restored. In these cases, almost 100% or 95% vision of the patient can be restored. However, delay or complacency in reaching an ophthalmologist quickly can lead to permanent and irreversible damage to the eye.
Usage of Steroids Can Lead To Cataract
Dr Prakash says steroids which are commonly used for the treatment of Covid can cause damage to the eyes as well. A category of patients called “steroid responders” tend to develop an increase in fluid pressure in their eyes when administered steroids. This condition can damage the eyes. In some cases that involve long-term use of steroids, patients can develop cataract. Timely checkup can avoid such complications, reversing the side-effects of steroids and saving the patient’s vision.
As per an article in American Academy of Ophthalmology, consider the following as the warning signs to visit your eye doctor:
- If you have a blurry, wavy vision or black spots in the field of your vision.
- You have an eye injury
- You suddenly lose vision
- You have a red eye or pain in your eyes and if associated with headache, nausea or vomiting.
Tips for eye care by Sonal Tuli, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, as published in the article:
- If you wear contact lenses, consider switching to glasses for a while as the person who wears lenses may touch eyes more often.
- Try to opt for sunglasses to guard from eyes from any infection
- Avoid touching your eyes as doing this can reduce risk of infection
- Wear a mask. Wash your hands
It is important to pay attention to your eye health in pandemic times and otherwise. If you have recently recovered from COVID, then any kind of pain or inflammation should be followed by a visit to your ophthalmologist. Timely treatment and some easy precautions can save you from getting permanent eye issues. Washing your hands from time to time and not touching eyes or face frequently is something that COVID has taught us and it will go a long way in preventing eye infections too.