This year has delivered more than its fair share of surprises. The most prominent, the one that 2020 may be most well-known for future generations, is the emergence of the novel coronavirus. For several months now, healthcare experts have been working hard to understand the risks, viable treatments, and prevention strategies to mitigate the effects of this illness. The more time that has gone by and the more cases investigated, the more we have learned about the various ways in which COVID-19 may affect the body. One of the discoveries that has been made is that this virus can lead to conjunctivitis in some patients. Here, we discuss how this might happen and how to protect yourself and those you love.
Your Eyes During the Pandemic
There are bigger concerns related to the novel coronavirus than a bout of pink eye. However, because this risk exists, it is important to discuss it. The primary COVID-19 symptoms that research has identified include a cough, fever, and shortness of breath. A small percentage of people have developed additional symptoms, such as hair loss, a rash, or eye infection. Pink eye is a relatively common infection that affects the conjunctiva, the lining of the eyelid and the white part of the eye. This infection causes uncomfortable inflammation that requires treatment from an eye doctor.
It is unclear exactly why some people who develop symptoms of COVID-19 also develop pink eye. Research suggests that the two different infections may be caught in the same way, through droplets that enter the eyes or the nasal passageway. There is also a slight chance that infection can be spread by touching objects that contain virus particles.
The good news about research is that a number of strategies have been found to effectively reduce the risk of getting the novel coronavirus. These same strategies, plus a few extras, can also help you protect your eyes from infection during this time. Tips include:
- Washing hands frequently with soap and water.
- Using hand sanitizer when in public places like the grocery store or gas station.
- Clean and disinfect commonly used items and surfaces often, including your phone.
- If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with your elbow, not your hand.
- If you wear contact lenses, switch to eyeglasses for a time so you are not touching your eyes often.
- Wear sunglasses or clear glasses to protect your eyes from droplets that may be in the air.