A new study has found that symptoms of COVID-19 can also manifest in the eyes.
The study, published in the BMJ Open Ophthalmology, found that sore eyes are the most common ocular ailment of coronavirus.
The researchers noted that the three most common ocular symptoms experienced by study participants were photophobia [being sensitive to light], sore eyes and itchy eyes.
The study, which obtained data from 83 participants, showed that the most reported COVID-19 symptoms were dry cough (66 percent), fever (76 percent), fatigue (90 percent) and loss of smell/taste (70 percent).
The researchers, led by the Director of the Vision and Eye Research Unit at the Anglia Ruskin University School of Medicine, Shahina Pardhan, said the frequency of sore eyes was significantly higher (p=0.002) during COVID-19 state (16 percent) compared with pre-COVID-19 state (five percent).
“There were no differences between males and females (p>0.05). 81 percent of participants reported to have experienced ocular symptoms within two weeks of other COVID-19 symptoms, and 80 percent reported they lasted for less than two weeks.
“The most significant ocular symptom experienced by people suffering from COVID-19 was sore eyes.
“Other symptoms associated with other types of conjunctivitis, such as mucous discharge and gritty eyes linked to bacterial infection, did not reach significance. The term ‘conjunctivitis’ is too broad and should be used with caution,” they said.
The findings suggest that ‘sore eye’ should be used to ascertain ocular symptoms linked to COVID-19.
The researchers say although the number of people in the study sample is relatively small, the prevalence of other symptoms of COVID-19 agrees with those in the literature.
“This should be confirmed with a larger scale study. We did not collect data on health literacy apart from participants’ self-reporting on any systematic diseases. It is also important to note that ocular symptoms might have been under-reported in the presence of other more serious manifestations of the disease.
“We also did not collect data on prior eye disease or collect any further data on self-reported vision loss or the presence of any other complicated eye diseases. In addition, it is possible that the online questionnaire and social media approach may have biased responses from digital literate participants.
“It is possible that people who are not digital literate were excluded from the study. It is also possible that these people might be older and may indeed have presented with different prevalence rates of ocular symptoms before and during COVID-19.
“This would require face-to-face or telephone interviews and would form the basis of a future study,” the researchers noted.
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