Are Dry Eyes a Symptom of COVID-19?
Over 80 percent of COVID-19 patients develop mild disease, according to March 2021 research. In addition, the same study suggests that at least 5 percent of COVID patients need intensive care.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fatigue, fever, and cough. But there are other symptoms as well.
We know much more about COVID-19 than we did at the beginning of the pandemic. Medical researchers and clinicians have linked dry eyes to COVID-19 infection.
Read on to learn what current research says about the link between dry eyes and COVID-19 infection.
Are dry eyes a symptom of COVID-19?
Dry eyes are not a common symptom of COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19. It is important to note that dry eyes in the absence of flu-like symptoms may not necessarily be a symptom of COVID-19.
Dry eyes are prevalent in people over the age of 50. A report by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, at least 4.9 million people over the age of 50, had dry eyes in 2015.
According to research, dry eyes seem more common in people with COVID-19 than in non-COVID individuals.
A review of studies published in 2021 found that in a group of 8,219 COVID-19 patients, at least 1 in 10 experienced eye symptoms.
The most typical eye symptom was dry eyes or the sensation of a foreign object in the eye. This feeling was reported in 16 percent of people with eye symptoms and 1.7 percent of COVID-19 patients.
We do not fully understand why COVID-19 contributes to dry eyes.
The virus responsible for COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, enters your body cells through angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). A 2020 study shows that ACE2 is present in the eye surface’s epithelial cells.
2018 research found that your body’s immune response creates an inflammation that can contribute to dry eyes. So theoretically, if the coronavirus invades the cells that line your eyes, it can affect your body’s ability to moisten the surface of your eyes.
Other factors contributing to dry eyes include wearing a mask and having excessive screen time (during the pandemic).
Can covering your face cause dry eyes?
Facial coverings help to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, there are indications that they may play a role in eye dryness. There have been an increasing number of dry eye cases since the start of the pandemic, according to a 2021 publication in the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology.
When your mask doesn’t fit against your face, exhaled air can move upward and cause your eyes to lose their moisture faster. As a result, people with a history of dry eyes will most likely experience prolonged mask usage.
Another factor that may contribute to dry eyes is increased screen time.
Since the pandemic’s beginning, many people have adopted virtual learning or working. But unfortunately, spending more time in front of a screen slows down your blinking rate and decreases eye moisture.
Other eye symptoms of COVID-19
Several studies have linked various eye symptoms to COVID-19. However, these symptoms are not the most common.
A 2021 review of studies found that COVID patients most reported the following eye symptoms:
- Discharge – 8.8%
- Eye pain – 9.6%
- Itchiness – 12.6%
- Tearing – 12.8%
- Redness – 13.3%
Eighty-nine people developed some form of eye disease in the above study. Pink eye was associated with over 90% of these cases.
At least 1 in 10 people with COVID-19 may experience eye symptoms. Dry eyes are the most commonly reported eye symptoms.
Other factors contributing to dry eyes include prolonged use of a face covering and increased screen time.
Dry eyes not accompanied by typical COVID-19 symptoms may not necessarily be a sign of COVID-19.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.