Can COVID-19 Increase the Risk for Eye Complications?

The largest current study of 121 patients suggests that most people will not suffer vision issues due to COVID-19 but a few individuals are still at greater risk for developing certain eye complications. Doctors continue to examine the impacts of COVID on ocular health, but they have found that when complications do arise, they can range from benign to potential permanent blindness.

As with any type of infection, COVID can exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or other cardiovascular diseases affecting blood vessels within the body. These pre-existing conditions likely play a role in the severity of eye problems experienced after contracting COVID but the inflammatory response caused by COVID is thought to be a contributing factor due to the increased risk of forming blood clots. If ocular complications do occur, they typically relate to retinal disorders and usually manifest within 1 to 6 weeks of the onset of primary COVID symptoms.

Common Eye Disorders Associated with COVID

The current study concluded that four common ocular disorders may be associated with developing post-COVID infection.

  • Cotton Wool Spots – aptly named because the affected areas in your eye begin to look like white and fluffy cotton wool. This condition emerges because of blood clots blocking nutrient delivery to the retina and subsequent swelling and death of the affected tissue. However, a patient with Cotton Wool Spots usually does not notice a change in vision.
  • Retinal Artery Occlusion – a more serious eye condition, also known as an eye stroke, it is the result of blood clots blocking the retinal arteries. This blockage causes oxygen deprivation and cell death within the retina. Symptoms a patient may experience include a sudden loss of vision with no sensation of pain.
  • Retinal Vein Occlusion – another serious eye condition that results from blood clots blocking a vein within the retina. The blockage prevents blood from flowing out of the eye and can cause excessive pressure to build. The vein may then swell and burst, leading to bleeding within the eye. A patient may notice a change in vision ranging from slightly blurry to permanent loss of sight as a result.
  • Retinal Hemorrhage – this condition is the result of bleeding from any of the blood vessels in the retina. Symptoms include blind spots within a patient’s vision and onset can be gradual or immediate.

What Can I Do to Protect Myself?

The associated eye complications were found in patients with varying degrees of typical COVID symptoms from asymptomatic to highly symptomatic. Follow current healthcare guidelines to protect yourself against contracting COVID, including thoroughly washing your hands and wearing a facemask in public settings to reduce the transmission of COVID. Vaccination against COVID may also reduce your risk for developing COVID-related complications.

If you think you are having eye problems due to COVID in Reston, VA, or if you experience any changes in your vision, contact NewView Eye Center at (703) 834-9777 or www.newviewlasereye.com to schedule an appointment. Our doctors will work with you during your exam to diagnose your eyesight problems and suggest the best treatment options available to protect your vision.