Survey looks at how COVID-19 affects eye health

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Sore eyes are the most significant vision-based indicator of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), according to new research published in the journal BMJ Open Ophthalmology.

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) asked patients who had a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis to complete a questionnaire about their symptoms, and how those compared to before they tested positive.

The researchers found that sore eyes were more common when the participants had COVID-19, with 16 percent reporting the issue as one of their symptoms. Additionally, 5 percent reported having had the condition beforehand. While 18 percent of people reported suffering from photophobia or light sensitivity as one of their symptoms, this was a 5 percent increase from their pre-COVID-19 state, the study said.

Of the 83 respondents, 81 percent reported ocular issues within two weeks of other COVID-19 symptoms. Of those, 80 percent reported their eye problems lasted less than two weeks. The most common reported symptoms overall were fatigue (90 percent), a fever (76 percent) and a dry cough (66 percent).

"While it is important that ocular symptoms are included in the list of possible COVID-19 symptoms, we argue that sore eyes should replace conjunctivitis as it is important to differentiate from symptoms of other types of infections, such as bacterial infections, which manifest as mucous discharge or gritty eyes,” said Shahina Pardhan, PhD, lead author of the study and director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute at ARU, in a statement. “This study is important because it helps us understand more about how COVID-19 can infect the conjunctiva and how this then allows the virus to spread through the body.”

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