New Coronavirus Can Infect Your Eyes as Well

By Amy Norton
HealthDay reporter

FRIDAY, October 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) – COVID-19 is primarily a respiratory infection, but experts suspected the virus could also enter the eyes. Now scientists have more direct evidence of this.

The results are based on a patient in China who developed an acute glaucoma attack shortly after recovering from COVID-19. His doctors had to perform surgery to treat the disease, and tests of his eye tissue showed evidence of SARS-CoV-2.

The case offers evidence that “SARS-CoV-2 can also infect eye tissue in addition to the respiratory system,” the doctors reported in the Oct. 8 online edition. Ophthalmology JAMA.

“It is suspected that the eyes may be a source of both ‘in’ and ‘out’ ‘for the novel coronavirus, said Dr. Aaron Glatt, spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

That’s why healthcare workers protect their eyes with glasses or face shields, he noted.

It is not possible to tell whether the patient in this case contracted SARS-CoV-2 through her eyes, according to Glatt. But that’s a possibility – whether it’s through viral particles in the air or by touching his eyes with a hand contaminated with the virus, he said.

Another big unknown is whether a virus that persists in patients’ eye tissue will cause problems.

According to Dr. Grace Richter, an ophthalmologist at the Roski Eye Institute at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, “It is too early to know what having this virus floating around in your eyes means for eye health.”

At this point, Richter said, limited eye problems have been seen with COVID-19: a small number of patients develop conjunctivitis (“pink eye”), where the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelid become swollen, red, and itchy.

The patient in this case suffered from acute angle-closure glaucoma – a serious condition in which the pressure in the eyes suddenly increases due to a build-up of fluid. It requires prompt treatment to relieve the pressure, sometimes with surgery to restore normal fluid movement in the eye.

Richter doubted the coronavirus directly caused the eye complication. In general, certain anatomical features of the eye make some people vulnerable to acute angle-closure glaucoma, and it can be triggered by medication, she explained.


Richter speculated that since the patient had been hospitalized and likely received various medications, this could have been the cause.

It’s possible, admitted Dr. Sonal Tuli, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and president of ophthalmology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, in Gainesville.

Tuli said the patient’s case is “interesting” but leaves a number of questions unanswered. The first is whether the virus in the eye tissue is really infectious.

The patient was a 64-year-old female who was hospitalized with COVID-19 on January 31. Eighteen days later, her symptoms were completely gone and the throat swabs tested negative for SARS-CoV-2.

About a week later, however, she developed pain and vision loss in one eye and then in her other eye a few days later, according to the report by Dr. Ying Yan and colleagues at the Central Theater General Hospital. Wuhan Command. , China.

The patient landed again at the hospital, where she was diagnosed with acute angle-closure glaucoma and cataracts. The drugs failed to lower her eye pressure, so her doctors performed surgery – taking tissue samples in the process.

Testing of these samples revealed that SARS-CoV-2 had invaded eye tissue, Yan’s team reported.

While it’s not clear how the virus got into the patient’s eyes, experts agreed the case underscores the importance of eye protection. For health care providers, that means glasses and face shields; for the average person, it is washing their hands regularly and keeping their hands away from the eyes.

“I think people don’t realize how often they touch their eyes,” Tuli said.

This advice will reduce the risk of any virus, including cold and flu bedbugs, coming in contact with the eyes, she noted.

While this can be sufficient in most cases, people caring for someone with COVID-19 at home may want to be extra careful, Tuli suggested. Wearing eye protection in addition to a mask is a “good idea,” she said.

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