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COVID-19 and the Eyes

The coronavirus disease of 2019 continues to change and evolve as it sweeps throughout the world, and, as it does our understanding of it is changing and evolving as well.

One of the things that is changing is our understanding of the relationship between COVID-19 and the eyes. For example, we know that COVID-19 can spread through the eyes when an infected person coughs or sneezes near your eye or if you touch an infected object before touching your eye. This is how flu viruses spread as well.

We also know that whilst the risk of transmission through the eyes is very low, healthcare professionals agree that taking precautions to avoid these transmissions is a good idea.

We also know that, in addition to being a portal for COVID-19, the eyes can also have coronavirus eye symptoms. And: the risk of that, too, is very low.

COVID Conjunctivitis

A very rare symptom of COVID-19 – which affects 1 to 3 per cent of people with COVID – is conjunctivitis (commonly called ‘pink eye).

Strictly speaking, if you are suffering with the symptoms of pink eye – redness or itchiness of the eye – without the symptoms of Covid 19, you probably just have pink eye or allergic conjunctivitis.

Allergic conjunctivitis is usually accompanied by intense itching and happens to both eyes at the same time. Often, it’s seasonal; it’s not contagious.

Viral conjunctivitis (pink eye) starts at one eye and spreads to the other. It’s highly contagious.

Pink eye is not a stand-alone symptom of COVID-19. If you or your child has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, or pink eye symptoms occur along with other COVID-19 symptoms like fever, breathing issues, lack of taste or smell, confusion, or cough, contact your medical provider for advice.

COVID-19 and Contact lenses

A number of experts and organisations have come forward to remind contact lens wearers that frequent handwashing with soap and water will protect them from exposure to the virus.

To drive the point home, the Centre for Ocular Research & Education (CORE) recently re-released a series of imagesfrom a 2018 study that shows the dramatic effect of good hand hygiene.

All eyecare health professionals agree – proper hand hygiene is the most important factor in preventing infections, of any kind, for contact lens wearers. If you are healthy, and are practicing proper hand hygiene, there is no need to stop wearing your contact lenses.

COVID-19 and Glasses

Did you know that glasses can help protect you from the Omicron virus?

Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, a Professor of Epidemiology of Hospital Infection and Infectious Diseases Control at the University of New South Wales, believes it is important to wear glasses to protect our eyes as they can be an entry point for the virus.

“With Omicron, one of the things I think we should be doing is telling people to look after their eyes – I ask them to wear glasses, sunglasses or anything to protect their eyes because their eyes have what’s called ACE2 receptor sites (entry points for the virus).

“If you are indoors in a shop and somebody has breathed out through their nose because they are not wearing their mask over their nose or not wearing a mask over their mouth then it could get into your eyes, so it would be great if people protected their eyes when they were indoors in a shopping mall,” said Prof. McLaws.

Eyecare Plus optometrists strictly adheres to all government health and safety advice to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This includes rigorous dedication to hand-hygiene and the use of PPE, such as surgical masks, gloves, eye protection and breath shields for equipment.

Eyecare Plus optometry practices carry out enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the patient environment on a regular basis.

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