Is Pink Eye A Symptom Of Covid

Don’t rub your eyes. It can be a hard habit to break. Moistening drops may help ease itchiness. Wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after you do it. If you must touch your eyes, use a tissue instead of your fingers.

COVID-19 and Your Eyes

The new coronavirus behind the pandemic causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19. Its most common symptoms are a fever, coughing, and breathing problems. Rarely, it also can cause an eye infection called conjunctivitis.


Based on data so far, doctors believe that 1%-3% of people with COVID-19 will get conjunctivitis, also called pinkeye. It happens when the virus infects a tissue called conjunctiva, which covers the white part of your eye or the inside of your eyelids. Symptoms include if your eyes are:

If you have conjunctivitis, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have COVID-19. The more likely causes are the many different viruses, bacteria, chemicals, and allergens that can irritate your eyes.

Many forms of conjunctivitis go away with over-the-counter treatments in about 1-2 weeks.

But if you also have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, ask your doctor what, if anything, you should do. Call before you head to a hospital or a medical center to see if it’s safe for you to visit and for any instructions for your arrival.

How the Infection Spreads

The new coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2, gets passed on primarily through droplets from a cough or a sneeze. These particles most often enter through your nose or mouth as well as your eyes. It’s also possible to catch the virus if you touch a contaminated countertop, doorknob, or other surfaces. But this doesn’t seem to be the main way the virus spreads.

If you have conjunctivitis from COVID-19, you may infect others with SARS-CoV-2 if you touch your eyes and then touch people or surfaces without washing or disinfecting your hands. Avoid touching your face, especially the mucous membranes in your mouth, nose, and eyes.

Seeing Your Doctor

Earlier in the pandemic, many doctors temporarily closed their offices except for emergency care. Call or go online to find out whether your doctor’s office is accepting routine visits. You should still contact your doctor if you notice eye symptoms, especially if you have:

  • Macular degeneration
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Regular eye injections
  • Loss of vision or changes like blank spots or flashes
  • Painful or red eyes, headache, nausea, and vomiting

Contact your doctor if you have any COVID-19 symptoms or if you’ve had contact with people who are sick. Your doctor may suggest a virtual visit over your computer or smartphone.

How to Protect Your Eyes

Like everyone, be sure to wash your hands often and stay home whenever you can. If you go out, keep 6 feet away from others and wear a mask. It also may be a good idea to:

Contact lenses: There is no evidence wearing contacts puts you at more risk for COVID-19 than those who wear eyeglasses. But you should continue to practice safe hygiene habits for wearing and caring for them. Washin your hands before putting them in, or taking them out..

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Wear glasses. Your glasses lenses may help protect your eyes from any respiratory droplets. If you don’t wear glasses, try sunglasses. And if you’re caring for someone ill, don safety glasses or goggles.

Stock up eye medication. Check with your insurer to see if you can refill glaucoma drops and other essential prescriptions in advance. You might be able to get a 3-month supply. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for any help.

Don’t rub your eyes. It can be a hard habit to break. Moistening drops may help ease itchiness. Wash your hands for 20 seconds before and after you do it. If you must touch your eyes, use a tissue instead of your fingers.

Show Sources

American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Coronavirus Eye Safety,” “Coronavirus and Your Eyes,” “Quick Home Remedies for Pink Eye.”

CDC: “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”

CDC: “Protect Your Eyes”

Dhanu Meleth, MD, uveitis specialist, vitreoretinal surgeon, Marietta Eye Clinic.

Is Pink Eye a Symptom of COVID-19?

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019, there have been more than 6.5 million confirmed cases of the disease worldwide. COVID-19 is caused by a newly discovered virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Viruses in the coronavirus family cause various kinds of respiratory infections, including the common cold, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The virus that causes COVID-19 is highly contagious and can result in either mild or severe illness. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) , the symptoms include:

Although less common, COVID-19 may also lead to the development of pink eye in about 1 to 3 percent of people.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at why COVID-19 may cause pink eye, and what other eye symptoms people with COVID-19 may experience.

It’s thought that up to 3 percent of people with COVID-19 develop ophthalmological symptoms (symptoms affecting the eyes).

In comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 83 to 99 percent of people develop a fever and 59 to 82 percent of people experience a cough.

A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology that looked at one person with COVID-19 found that eye symptoms occurred in the middle stages of infection.

Additional research involving more participants is needed to verify that this is typical, however.

Pink eye

Pink eye , also known as conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the clear tissue over the whites of your eyes and the inside of your eyelids. It usually leads to redness and swelling of your eyes. A viral or bacterial infection can cause it.

A review of three studies published in late April 2020 examined how common pink eye is among people with COVID-19.

The researchers examined a total of 1,167 people with either mild or severe COVID-19.

They found that 1.1 percent of people developed pink eye, and that it was more common in people with severe COVID-19 symptoms.

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Only 0.7 percent of people with mild symptoms developed pink eye, while it occurred in 3 percent of people with severe symptoms.

A study published in late February 2020 examined the COVID-19 symptoms of 1,099 people with the disease in 552 hospitals in China. Researchers found that 0.8 percent of the people with COVID-19 had symptoms of pink eye.


One study published in JAMA Ophthalmology examined the symptoms of 38 people who were hospitalized for COVID-19. Twelve of the participants had symptoms related to the eye.

Eight of these people experienced chemosis, which is a swelling of the clear membrane that covers the whites of your eyes and inner eyelid. Chemosis can be a symptom of pink eye or a general sign of eye irritation.


In the same study, researchers found that seven people had epiphora (excessive tearing). One of the participants experienced epiphora as their first symptom of COVID-19.

Increased eye secretion

Seven of the participants in the JAMA Ophthalmology study experienced increased eye secretions. (Your eyes normally produce an oily film to help keep them lubricated.)

None of the participants experienced an increase in eye secretions at the beginning of their illness.

The new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 primarily travels through droplets in the air when someone with an infection sneezes, speaks, or coughs. When you breathe in these droplets, the virus enters your body and can replicate.

You can also contract the virus if you touch surfaces that the droplets may have landed on, such as tables or handrails, and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. However, this is not thought to be the main way that the virus spreads

It’s suspected that the virus can also be transmitted through the eyes.

The virus responsible for the 2003 SARS outbreak is genetically similar to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Research on this outbreak found that a lack of eye protection put healthcare workers in Toronto at risk for contracting the virus.

The same research suggests that the risk of transmission through your eyes is relatively low compared to other means. However, taking precautions to protect your eyes is likely still a good idea.

Scientific knowledge of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving. It’s possible that future studies will find the risk is higher than originally thought.

How the virus gets into your eyes

The virus that led to the 2003 SARS outbreak entered the body through an enzyme called angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Research has also found that the virus that causes COVID-19 also likely does the same.

ACE2 is widely found in places throughout your body, including your heart, kidney, intestines, and lungs. ACE2 has also been detected in the human retina and the thin tissue that lines your eye.

The virus enters human cells by tricking cells into thinking that it’s ACE2.

The virus can attach to a cell at a particular spot, called a receptor, where ACE2 fits exactly. The virus mimics the shape of the ACE2 enzyme well enough that the cell allows the virus to enter it, same as it would the enzyme.

Once in the cell, the virus is protected and can replicate until it ruptures the cell. Copies of the virus find new cells to invade, repeating the process.

When the virus reaches your eyes, it may cause pink eye or other eye symptoms.

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Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for his studies of ageing, genetics and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics NAS of Ukraine. His scientific researches are printed by the most reputable international magazines. Some of his works are: Differences in the gut Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes ratio across age groups in healthy Ukrainian population []; Mating status affects Drosophila lifespan, metabolism and antioxidant system [Science Direct]; Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum Increases Lifespan, Stress Resistance, and Metabolism by Affecting Free Radical Processes in Drosophila [Frontiersin].
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