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Here’s a coronavirus update: Experts say covid-19 can spread through the eyes

Published on:23 April 2020, 14:01pm IST
While we know we must wash your hands and wear face masks to prevent covid-19, experts are now also suggesting wearing glasses as precautionary step.
IANS
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Want to combat eye infection? Sweet lime is your saviour. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

The mandatory precautionary measures against covid-19 that we have been aware include the use of facial masks and hand sanitisers. With new research emerging, it’s time to add eye care to that list of preventative measures against covid-19. Because according to eye-care specialists in India, the virus can transmit through the eyes too.

To reduce the possible risk of the virus entering our body through the eyes,  ophthalmologists point out the need for wearing glasses and taking good care of eye health.

“One of the rare manifestations of covid-19 is a pink eye or conjunctivitis. Sometimes, patients may not have a fever, cold, cough, or any other symptom other than mild conjunctivitis. These covid-19 patients can also experience loss of smell and loss of taste,” said Ikeda Lal, pphthalmologist at Delhi Eye Centre and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi.

In a research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, it was claimed that of the 1,099 patients across 30 different Chinese hospitals, nine had “conjunctival congestion”. 

covid-19 through eyes
It is integral that we become more conscious of our eye care routine to prevent us from getting covid-19. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What are the symptoms of conjunctivitis or pink eye?
The symptoms of conjunctivitis or ‘pink eye’ are redness, watering, irritation, pain, and discharge. Any discharge from the infected eye can be a potential source of contamination, suggest experts.

“Although there are very few reports of covid-19 conjunctivitis and that too only from China, one should be careful when one develops conjunctivitis during this covid era and get oneself tested immediately,” says Rajesh Sinha, Professor of Opthalmology, All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.

The contamination of any person with the virus through eyes is similar to contamination through the mouth. When a person touches an affected surface and then touches the eyes or the face, the virus can enter the body, according to Dr Sinha. With spectacles, one can prevent virus droplets from coming in contact with the eyes. 

Also, Read: Turns out, home-made masks for covid-19 prevention are much safer according to scientists

What are the eye-care practices that everyone should follow?
To prevent the spread of coronavirus, Dr Lal further says: “Eyecare during coronavirus pandemic is very important. Do not rub your eyes, avoid wearing contact lenses. Those who wear contact lenses have a tendency towards rubbing their eyes, which can allow the virus to get into the eyes.”

covid-19 through eyes
It’s time to protect your precious eyes from contamination of coronavirus. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
  • Everyone is advised to wear glasses when they step out of the house and those who wear contact lenses should switch to glasses immediately.

  • Dr Sinha suggests everyone who is working from home or binge watching series to take frequent breaks between webinars, web series, and typing reports to  intentionally increase your blink rate.

  • Regularly try to put some lubricating eye drops or keep your eyes moist even by splashing water into the eye.

With covid-19 cases in India at almost 18,601, with 14,759 active cases until Tuesday according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, it is crucial to take every precaution seriously. To keep yourself protected from the virus, basic eye care must be practiced.