The Coronavirus: How it Can Affect Your Eyes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), human coronaviruses are common throughout the world and typically cause mild-to-moderate illness for those who become infected. When many of us think of the most recent coronavirus — known as 2019-nCoV, or simply, the Wuhan coronavirus — we think of the risk of respiratory illness or flu-like symptoms. While the majority of coronavirus cases include severe respiratory infections, like pneumonia, it’s possible that the coronavirus can affect your eyes, as well.

Here at Advanced Eyecare of Orange County, expert ophthalmologist, Dr. Kim Doan, is committed to providing exceptional, personalized eye health care to people living in Newport Beach and Huntington Beach, California, and the surrounding communities. Dr. Doan looks at your eye health as part of your overall health and well-being. She shares important information on how the coronavirus can affect your eyes so you can take the necessary precautions.

Conjunctivitis and the coronavirus

While the coronavirus is mainly a respiratory illness, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting the virus can cause conjunctivitis and potentially be transmitted from person to person through airborne contact with your eyes. Conjunctivitis, most commonly known as pink eye, is an infection of the conjunctiva — the clear tissue that covers the white part of your eye and lines your eyelids.

When you have conjunctivitis, your eye becomes irritated, red, and inflamed. Some forms of conjunctivitis are highly contagious and can be spread between your own eyes as well as to other people.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, if you develop conjunctivitis and you meet any of the following criteria, it could be related to the Wuhan coronavirus:

  • Respiratory symptoms, including cough and shortness of breath
  • Pneumonia
  • Fever
  • Recent travel to China
  • Recent international travel
  • Contact with family members who recently returned from China

If you experience the symptoms of conjunctivitis, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with Dr. Doan so you can get the treatment you need to clear up the infection and prevent spreading it to others. If you have conjunctivitis and respiratory symptoms, seek treatment as soon as possible.

How to protect yourself

Just because you traveled internationally or have family and friends who recently returned from China doesn’t necessarily mean you’re at high risk for the coronavirus, or you already have it. However, it’s possible to spread the virus via respiratory droplets, or if you touch an object with the virus and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. You can spread the virus to others even if you don’t yet experience symptoms, which can take 2-14 days to appear.

Fortunately, you can take precautions to protect yourself and others when you help prevent the spread of germs and viruses by wearing a mask over your nose and mouth. You should also consider wearing a shield, such as goggles, over your eyes. While conjunctivitis, as it relates to the Wuhan coronavirus, is not common, it’s still important to protect yourself and others, especially if there’s a chance that you or a family member were exposed to the virus.

A general eye exam at Advanced Eyecare of Orange County lets Dr. Doan evaluate your overall eye health and alerts her of any conditions or concerns that require attention or immediate treatment. To schedule your exam, or to get help for conjunctivitis, contact one of our offices by phone, or request the next available appointment online.

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