The topic of corona virus is everywhere. We are already aware, have read and heard a lot about corona virus. The whole world is not just talking but extremely worried about Corona virus. Corona virus are a group of common viruses that have been known to affect birds and mammals. First reports of new Corona virus (also called COVID 19) emerged from China. COVID 19 can infect humans and can cause minor ailments like the common cold or occasionally the more serious affections like bronchitis, pneumonia etc.
The big question that we as eye doctors get asked is- Can it affect the eyes? Let’s try to answer this question in 2 slightly separate ways. First can a patient infected with COVID 19 develop eye related problems and secondly can our eyes play a role in the spread of the corona virus.
Patients who have contracted the new corona virus can develop eye related symptoms. Some of the infected individuals may develop conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis is basically the redness of the outer layer of the eye. When patients develop conjunctivitis, eyes appear red and patients may experience some discomfort in the form of discharge, foreign body sensation and eye pain. The good thing is that it is not something very serious. It can be treated with simple lubricating eye drops and occasionally other eye drops like antibiotics. However, it is best to talk to your eye doctor before self-medicating for the red eyes.
Just like any other viral conjunctivitis people should take some basic precautions
- Avoid touching your eyes and the area around it.
- Do not use eye cosmetics or contact lenses unless your infection has cleared up completely.
- Use moist warm compresses to obtain relief from your symptoms.
- Disinfect surfaces like sinks and doorknobs to prevent the spread of infection to other family members.
- Cover your eyes with protective eye gear to prevent spreading it to others
- Keep your towel soaps etc separate
Now let’s answer the second question- Can corona virus enter human body through the eyes. Well, it is not known for sure, but it is believed that eyes can play a role in the spread of the corona virus.
There are several reports. For example, a physician from Peking University believed that he may have contracted the coronavirus while not wearing eye protection while he was treating patients. So, while this is possible, no one knows with full certainty, so it is better to take precautions and avoid hand to eye contact.
To reduce the risk of contracting the new coronavirus, it is better to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. Any kind of mucous membranes (membranes that line various cavities in the body) can allow the virus to enter the human body.
General precautions against Corona Virus:
- Wash your hands with soap and water often
- Avoid touching your hands to your eyes, nose or mouth
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick or have conjunctivitis
- Wear a face mask to cover your mouth and nose and a protective eye gear to cover your eyes if you are sick or helping a sick person
- Clean and disinfect surfaces which are frequently touched by everyone