According to some recent observations, a rare infection that can lead to blindness might be linked to COVID-19.
In the space of only two months, three patients suffering from COVID-19 in one New York healthcare system developed keratitis, a condition marked by inflammation in the cornea. It progressed into a rare vision-threatening infection called endophthalmitis.
Having three cases in one place in such a short time is extremely rare, according to Dr. Amilia Schrier, a professor of Opthalmology at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra University.
Endophthalmitis is very rare, but a virus can cause it. There have been a few other cases linked to COVID-19, but this association is not proven. Symptoms of endophthalmitis include:
- Eye discharge
- Eyelid Swelling
- Reduced vision
Keratitis does not typically progress to endophthalmitis, according to Schrier. One study found that only 27 out of nearly 100,000 eyes over 15 years developed endophthalmitis from keratitis.
COVID-19 has also been linked to conjunctivitis, a minor eye infection more commonly known as pink eye.
It’s hard to say if COVID-19 caused the infections or if these people just happened to have keratitis and endophthalmitis. Each of the patients was reported to be in their 60s and had multiple health issues, so at this stage, it is difficult to draw a straight line between them.
People who wear contact lenses or regularly touch their eyes are at a higher risk for keratitis. Knowing how to wear, store, and clean contact lenses, as well as good hand hygiene, can all help reduce the risk for this condition.
Your eyes have a pretty strong natural defense system, but they can serve as an entry point for damaging infection. COVID-19 can enter your body through mucous membranes in your eyes, as can other bacteria and viruses.
Although it’s unknown whether COVID-19 can cause these conditions or the findings are just a coincidence, it is interesting to note.