Your Eyes Could Be the Window to COVID-19

While there are a number of established and common COVID-19 symptoms, there is an ever growing body of evidence that the coronavirus can affect eye health, with pink eye or conjunctivitis appearing in a small but not insignificant number of COVID-19 cases. If you have red eyes, swelling, excessive tear production, non-tear eye discharge and itchiness in addition to respiratory symptoms, you may have COVID-19. Current data seems to show that the more serious the COVID-19 infection the more likely the sufferer is to have eye symptoms.

While the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 is not affected by eye health directly, taking care of your eye health is a good way to protect yourself from potential infection. The relationship between eye health and coronavirus infection is a little convoluted. 

Your eyes are considered mucous membranes, and viruses are usually transmitted via the mucous membranes. This is the simple version. It gets a little more complicated when you consider that the transmission vector for COVID-19 is “respiratory droplets”, aerosolised saliva and mucus expelled when someone with the virus coughs or sneezes. Inhaling one of these droplets through the nose or mouth, not droplets coming in contact with the surface of the eye, is the major cause of infection, but hand to mucous membrane contact can also transmit the virus.

The face contains three mucous membranes, the eyes, nose and mouth. Most people touch their faces, often unconsciously, multiple times an hour. Although there is no conclusive evidence available as yet as to whether touching a surface covered with infectious material and then rubbing your eyes can give you COVID-19, the typical modes of viral infections would suggest this is the case.

If you have swollen, itchy or watery eyes, an eye infection or viral conjunctivitis book an appointment to see an optometrist now.

Should I Wear Contact Lenses During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Given that your eyes are mucous membranes (one of the wet parts of the body) , and that the coronavirus is transmitted through mucous membranes, avoiding touching your eyes is recommended. If you are a contact lens user and don’t have the virus, it is OK to keep wearing your contact lenses but it is vital that you adhere to strict hand hygiene protocols any time you apply, remove or adjust your contact lenses. You should also make sure your hands are thoroughly washed for any other regular eye care procedures you may have to undertake.

If you are in a position in which you don’t have access to soap and water and need to touch your eyes you can use a 60%+ alcohol hand sanitiser.

But your contact lenses themselves are manufactured in strictly sterile conditions and almost always supplied in a condition to be immediately ready to wear.

If you have the virus or are living with someone who may be infected it’s advised that if you have access to glasses you don’t wear contact lenses until advised otherwise. Some people have a severe eye condition and can’t properly function without contact lenses. These people should contact their optometrist if unwell, as your optometrist will be able to provide you with personalised specific advice in these circumstances.

If you feel you may have COVID-19 and are self-isolating, many optometrists are now offering Telehealth appointments . These appointments are conducted via videoconferencing technology, giving the optometrist the ability to diagnose your eye infection from the comfort and safety of your own home.

If you have swollen, itchy or watery eyes, an eye infection or viral conjunctivitis and need to book an appointment with an optometrist, the most convenient way is to book online at

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