By now, the whole world knows what COVID-19 is capable of doing – fever, cough, and shortness of breath that can take 2 to 14 days to show up after a person is exposed to the virus. In some people, the infection can get so severe that it can develop into pneumonia, leading to complications or even death.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a couple of reports suggest that coronavirus can also cause pink eye (conjunctivitis) in the infected person.
How Coronavirus Can Affect Your Eyes
Health officials believe that conjunctivitis develops in about 1% to 3% of people with coronavirus.
Conjunctivitis is an infection of the membrane, known as conjunctiva that lines the eyelid and covers the white part of your eyeball. The symptoms of pink eye include itchiness, redness, tearing, discharge that forms a crust, and a gritty feeling in the affected eye.
How Coronavirus Is Transmitted
When a person infected with coronavirus sneezes, coughs, sneezes, or talks, the virus can spray from their nose or mouth into your face. It’s likely that you inhale these droplets through your nose or mouth, and it’s also likely for the virus to enter your eyes too.
If you touch an object that has been contaminated with the virus – like the door knob – and then touch your eyes, the virus can enter your eyes.
The doctors at Insight Vision Center, Fresno, CA, have been closely following the coronavirus updates and would like to offer tips on how to stay healthy and protect your eyes while hunkering down at home.
Below are some eye protection guidelines you can follow:
- Avoid rubbing your eyes.
- Switch to eyeglasses for a while instead of wearing contact lenses.
If you tend to touch your eyes a lot for no apparent reason, consider wearing glasses more often. Wearing eyeglasses instead of contact lenses decreases the irritation in your eyes due to contact lenses, and you are more likely to pause before you touch your eyes. If you want to continue wearing contact lenses, ensure that you follow the contact lens hygiene to reduce your chances of an infection.
- Wear glasses for an added layer of protection.
Although sunglasses or corrective eyeglasses can protect your eyes from virus-infected droplets, they do not provide 100% protection. The virus can enter into your eyes through the exposed areas such as the side, top, and bottom of the glasses. If you are taking care of a sick patient or if you are potentially exposed to the virus, wear safety goggles for a stronger defense.
- Stock up on critical eye medicines.
Don’t wait until the last minute to contact your pharmacy and request a refill of your medications. During the lockdown, there may be a shortage of supplies, so it is advisable to stock up on critical medications, enough to get you by in emergency situations during the quarantine. If you have trouble getting approval from your insurance company, ask your pharmacist or your ophthalmologist for help.
- Practice safe hygiene and social distancing.
Follow these general guidelines issued by The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to slow the spread of disease:
If you have the urge to rub your eyes or adjust your eyeglasses, don’t use your fingers, instead use a tissue. And if you must touch your eyes, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after touching your eyes.
- Wash your hands as often as possible for at least 20 seconds using soap and water. Make it a habit to wash your hands after you use the restroom, cough, sneeze or blow your nose, and before eating.
- If you do not have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
- Avoid touching your face — eyes, nose, and mouth.
- If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue and throw it away immediately. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow and then wash your hands.
- Maintain social distancing. Avoid close contact with people. Stay at least 6 feet away from a person with a respiratory infection.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Disinfect commonly touched objects and surfaces, such as countertops and doorknobs in your house.