Coronavirus and your eyes: What you need to know
You no doubt have heard about the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, the respiratory disease also known as Coronavirus 2019 or COVID-19, and have concerns about your eye health and that of your family. The doctors at Eye Medical Center of Fresno are paying close attention to the spread of the virus, and would like to offer their patients some information and tips for staying well.
How coronavirus can affect your eyes
The symptoms of COVID-19 include coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. Though much is still being learned about the virus, it is believed to spread primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It could also be spread if you touch an object or surface with virus present from an infected person, and then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, two recent reports suggest the virus can cause conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. Pink eye is an infection of the transparent membrane (also known as the conjunctiva) that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eyeball. It can affect one or both eyes, and symptoms include redness, itchiness, tearing, a gritty feeling in the affected eye, and discharge that forms a crust, making it difficult to open your eye. Although it is as of yet not known for certain, it is possible that SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted by aerosol contact with the conjunctiva, or by touching your eyes after coming into contact with the virus.
Should you wear a face mask to protect yourself?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers these tips for protecting yourself from coronavirus:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a face mask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
Right now, older people and those with certain underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease and diabetes, for example, seem to be at greater risk of serious illness. Make sure that if you are coming into contact with those who are at the most risk, you take care to follow the above tips.
When to see an eye specialist
If you think you have been exposed to coronavirus or have begun exhibiting symptoms (fever, shortness of breath, and coughing), be sure to call your primary physician. If you have standard conjunctivitis symptoms (and do not have a fever), you can make an appointment with an eye specialist at Eye Medical Center of Fresno by calling (559) 486-5000.