How Being Exposed To Covid Can Trigger Eye Problems

Conjunctivitis (and other eye issues) can be an early sign of Covid infection.
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One in 10 people who have had Covid experienced having at least one eye problem, new research has found. It’s known that having Covid can affect your lungs, heart and other vital organs but new information suggests that a Covid-19 infection can also impact the eye.

Those who were exposed to Covid-19 experienced eye problems such as dryness, redness, blurred vision and sensitivity to light. Meanwhile conjunctivitis, or pink-eye, can be a symptom as well as a side-effect of Covid-19.

Conjunctivitis can be an early sign of a Covid infection. Given the direct connection between the eye and brain via the optic nerve, infection of the retina could open a window to the rest of the brain, GP Dr Nisa Aslam from GoldenEye explains.

Covid variants enter the body through cell receptors and some of these are present in the eye. These receptors are found in different parts of the eye – cells which line the retina, whites of the eye and eyelid. 

A study published by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Germany analysed how SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19) infects cells in the eye and the possible consequences to the rest of the nervous system.

SARS-CoV-2 can penetrate mucous membranes that line several organs including the respiratory system, as well as the eye’s surface and eyelids when a droplet containing the virus lands on the surface of the eye, the study found.

In addition to the possibility of Covid-generated eye symptoms, conjunctivitis usually strikes when a person’s immune system is low, so if you catch Covid, you may be more susceptible to conjunctivitis too. 

The virus, however, isn’t the only thing that’s affected our eye-health. In general, people have been spending more time in front of digital screens since the pandemic began.

According to a recent study, 93.6% of people increased their digital device time after lockdown was put in place, equating to an average increase of 4.8 hours a day, and raising the average amount of screen time per day to 8.65 hours.

Sitting in front of a screen all day, focusing our eyes on one place, may cause us to blink less often, which can present a big problem for the eyes as blinking is essential to spread tears over the ocular surface. 

If this isn’t happening at the required rate, the tear film can evaporate, which can irritate the cells lining the cornea, leading to inflammation and discomfort. Plus, the blue light from a screen is a powerful suppressor of melatonin, which we need to secrete to get a good night’s sleep.

Being exposed to it for prolonged periods, especially before bedtime can mean it takes us longer to get to sleep, and result in poorer quality sleep. This, in turn, can influence how well our body’s immune system is able to fight off infections like conjunctivitis, styes and blepharitis.

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