Coronavirus and Your Eyes | AAO Patient Information

Coronavirus and Your Eyes

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has composed this handout about coronavirus and your eyes.  A synopsis of the patient handout follows.

We are presently in the midst of the pandemic. Information is evolving about what we know and do not know about this virus.

The AAO has provided this update regarding the coronavirus and your eyes.

What is Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a family of viruses.  Other coronaviruses cause SARS, MERS and, now, COVID2019.  Though they are from the same family, each virus differs in the disease they cause, symptoms, morbidity and mortality. 

We are in the midst of a pandemic.  COVID-19 is the disease caused by the virus named:  novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, 2019 coronavirus or just the coronavirus.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath.  Some patients develop severe pneumonia and become severely ill. Others can die from underlying conditions complicating the COVID-19 illness.

Coronavirus and the Eyes

As of this writing, because COVID-19 is believed to be primarily a respiratory infection that spreads through the nose, mouth and possibly the eyes.

There have been early reports of virus being isolated from tears.  Other studies are underway to further investigate this possibility.

It is widely accepted that infected persons can shed the virus through tiny droplets when coughing, sneezing or talking.  It may be possible that you inoculate yourself by touching your eyes after contacting something with a live virus on it. 

Coronavirus may cause red or “pink” eyes.  If you believe you have conjunctivitis caused by coronavirus, please call your eye doctor. 

Emergent and Urgent Eye Care Only

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that eye doctors restrict patient care to those patients with urgent and emergent eye conditions.

This will help limit the spread of the pandemic and also help preserve vital equipment (beds and ventilators), manpower (healthcare workers) and supplies (PPE).

Call your eye doctor if you have sudden loss of vision and are treated for diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and/or you receive intraocular injections.  New blurriness should be concerning as are new floaters or flashes. Sudden loss of vision, pain, headache, red eye or nausea may be symptoms of an eye emergency.  

Most offices have limited hours and have changed patient flow at the office.  Many may have you wait in your car while you are dilating or are in queue to see the eye doctor. 

Gloves, face shields and respirator masks are now commonplace for both the physician and the patient during this pandemic. 

Pandemic Eye Care

Overall, protect your eyes from possible contamination.  Contact lens wearers may consider wearing glasses for a while as an added barrier to infection.  Contact lens wearers tend to touch their eye more often than non-contact lens wearers. Glasses add a physical barrier to dispersed droplets. 

Avoid rubbing your eyes and wash your hands as often as possible – especially after touching your eyes or inserting/removing your contact lenses.

The PDF of the handout “Coronavirus and Your Eyes.”