Eye problems could be an early warning sign of a Covid infection – symptoms to watch out for

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Sore, itchy eyes can be a warning sign of a Covid-19 infection (Photo: Shutterstock)

Sore, itchy eyes could be an early sign of a Covid-19 infection, new findings suggest.

The researchers concluded that having eye problems may be an indicator that a person has contracted the virus, with symptoms starting within two weeks before any other signs appear.

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Symptoms to look for

While a high temperature, a new and continuing cough, and loss of taste and smell are the most common symptoms of Covid-19, a recent study found that having sore, itchy eyes was one of them. of the most prominent eye symptoms in coronavirus patients.

The research, published in the BMJ Open Ophthalmology, also indicated sensitivity to light – known as photophobia – as another sign of viral infection.

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University studied data from 83 Covid-19 patients and found the following symptoms to be the most reported:

  • Dry cough – 66%
  • High temperature and fever – 76%
  • Fatigue – 90%
  • Loss of taste and smell – 70%

However, when assessing eye symptoms, the team found that 18% had suffered from photophobia, 17% had itchy eyes, and 16% reported eye pain.

When do eye symptoms appear?

The study found that the frequency of sore eyes was significantly higher when a person had the three main symptoms of the coronavirus, rather than before. But up to 81% said they experienced eye symptoms within two weeks of onset of other symptoms of Covid-19.

Four in five patients said their eye problems lasted less than two weeks in total, and no difference was found between men and women.

Previous studies have suggested that Covid-19 can cause eye infections, such as conjunctivitis, although the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies it as one of the less common signs.

Meanwhile, Italian researchers found at the start of the pandemic that Covid-19 could stay in a person’s eyes for up to 21 days after developing the first symptoms.

Scientists at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases discovered that a 65-year-old woman had red, infected eyes before classic signs of the coronavirus manifested, and remained in her eyes for exactly three weeks. Researchers examined her five days after she was discharged from the hospital and found that the virus had returned to her eye fluid and persisted even after her nasal swabs were cleared of the virus.

This suggested to researchers that the virus was continuing to reproduce in his eye fluid, leading to warnings that conjunctivitis could be an early sign of coronavirus.

Conjunctivitis “too large”

The Cambridge team, led by Professor Shahina Pardhan, director of the Vision and Eye Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin University School of Medicine, have since delved into eye symptoms and found that sore eyes were the most prominent symptom, not conjunctivitis.

Professor Parhhan explained, “The most important eye symptom experienced by people with Covid-19 was sore eyes.

“Other symptoms associated with other types of conjunctivitis, such as mucous discharge and rough eyes related to bacterial infection, have not reached significance.

“The term ‘conjunctivitis’ is too broad and should be used with caution.”

The College of Optometrists and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists added that patients are unlikely to develop red eyes without other symptoms of coronavirus.

A spokeswoman said: “Recent reports have suggested that Covid-19 could cause conjunctivitis, and it is known that viral particles can be found in tears, which has caused some concern among medical professionals. ocular.

“It is recognized that any upper respiratory tract infection can lead to viral conjunctivitis as a secondary complication, and this is also the case with Covid-19.

“However, it is unlikely that a person will have viral conjunctivitis secondary to Covid-19 without other symptoms of fever or continuous cough, as conjunctivitis appears to be a late feature where it has occurred.”


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