Coronavirus and Your Eyes

The greatest challenge that seems to plague the world today is how to curb the further spread of the novel corona virus. According to the U.S National Library of Medicine, the corona virus is a group of common viruses, some of which affects humans, triggering minor to severe ailments which are life-threatening. Reports of the virus emerged in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and its spread to many countries including Nigeria has taken a rapid glide.

Recent statistics from the World Health Organization reports over 9 million cases and over 480,000 deaths altogether in 213 countries and territories with the United States recording the most cases of infection and deaths closely followed by Brazil.

The virus seems to spread by respiratory droplets produced when coughing and sneezing (from person to person) and by touching your face (eyes, nose, or mouth) after touching contaminated surfaces. The time between exposures to onset of symptoms is generally between 2-14 days with an average of 5 days.

Persons exposed to the virus may show symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sneezing, runny nose and sore throat. However, some infected persons may not show any symptoms initially.


According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), doctors have found that the new corona virus can cause conjunctivitis- an inflammation of the conjunctiva (a mucous membrane which lines the eyelids and the eye).

Mucous membranes which line the various cavities in the body including the eyes are most susceptible to the transmission of the virus.
Persons with conjunctivitis experience itchiness, redness of the eye, sensitivity to light, swelling of the eyelids and in some cases mucous discharges from the eye.

If you have these symptoms, you are advised to consult your eye doctor immediately. These symptoms may also be experienced in patients who use contact lenses.

Although use of contact lenses have not been shown to exacerbate or increase the risk of infection from corona virus, ensure you adhere to the routine hygiene for contact lens use including washing hands thoroughly before insertion and before removal of the lenses, use the appropriate contact lens cleaning solution.

Other precautionary measures to protect your eyes from possible infection from the corona virus include:

  • Keep unwashed hands away from your eyes
  • Stay away from crowded places
  • Wash hands regularly and use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or into a disposable tissue
  • Stay at home except if absolutely necessary
  • Keep a safe distance away from anyone who is ill
  • Discontinue contact lens wear if you are already infected with the corona or if you have symptoms of discomfort with contact lenses and contact your Optometrist.

The good news is that only about 1% to 3% of coronavirus patients get conjunctivitis, according to AAO.

Remember, do not panic. Try to observe the aforementioned precautionary measures, and stay safe.

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