Can Coronavirus Affect Eyesight?



Most COVID-19 research focuses on respiratory infection in the nose and lungs. There has not been much research about COVID-19 and the eyes. Research shows that about 10 percent of people who contracted COVID-19 developed symptoms of the eyes or ears, which were the most persistent symptoms of the illness.

A new study published in Nature Communications explores whether the COVID-19 virus may affect the vision and depth perception of people who have contracted the virus.

COVID-19 can infect through the eyes

The study was co-led by Griffith University's Menzies Health Institute and South Korea's Center for Convergent Research for Emerging Virus Infection, Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology.

Using animal models, the research team found the eyes and specific nerves attached to the brain are susceptible to the virus, and SARS-CoV-2 can infect the eye through the respiratory tract by way of the brain.

Principal Research Leader and co-lead author Professor Suresh Mahalingam said the COVID-19 virus could cause the retina to get thicker by:

  • Accumulation of fluid
  • Optic nerve inflammation
  • Immune cell infiltration

"The virus can infect the eye through nerve tissues at the back of the eye that play a role in the visual aspects of the eye and sending signals for visual purposes," said Professor Mahalingam.

An inflamed retina can cause blurred vision and a reduction in depth perception. Fortunately, blurred vision does not indicate permanent ocular tissue damage; it seems to be only a symptom and is likely transient.

Yearly eye exams prevent chronic eye disease

You may believe that if you can see clearly, you do not need a doctor to examine your eyes. This is a myth because many eye diseases develop slowly and don't have warning signs in the early stages.

An annual comprehensive eye exam with dilation can help prevent eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma or macular degeneration. These conditions can permanently affect your vision if you do not seek treatment. Early detection of eye conditions allows your ophthalmologist a broader array of treatment options so you can preserve your vision.

How long has it been since your last eye exam? Patients of all ages need to visit their eye doctor regularly because eye disease can also affect children.

Our eye care centers are ready to meet your unique vision needs. Call today to make an appointment.