Loss of taste and smell are common complaints of COVID-19, but these are not the only complications. Because the virus deprives organs of the oxygen they need, people can experience vision changes.
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 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 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.
Griffith University Ph.D. student Ng Weng Hann said much research has been done on the lungs and nasal region but not so much on the eye.
“We found the virus can indeed infect the eye through a normal intranasal approach, but also if droplets of the virus make direct contact with the eye,” he said.
An inflamed retina can cause blurred vision and a reduction in depth perception. Fortunately, blurred vision does not indicate vision damage; it seems to be only a symptom that is likely temporary.
Visit your eye doctor if you experience these eye symptoms
You should make an appointment with your ophthalmologist if you experience symptoms such as the following:
- Sensitivity to light
- Reading challenges
- Blurry vision
- Poor depth perception
Annual comprehensive eye exams prevent eye disease
Preventing eye disease is always more manageable and less expensive than treatment. Because eye diseases develop slowly, they often 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. Your ophthalmologist can also recommend treatment for dry eye, diabetic retinopathy and droopy eyelids..
How long has it been since your last eye exam? Call today to make an appointment.