NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Our eyes can often reveal more than we know. And in this pandemic — pink eye or conjunctivitis could be linked to the novel coronavirus.
“What we are learning is that about 30 percent of patients with COVID-19 do have conjunctivitis or eye redness. So it could be an early warning sign,” says eye specialist Dr. Vicente Diaz with Yale Medicine, who is also a researcher.
He points out, “Using PCR – we have found evidence of the virus in tears.”
The eyes are an entry point for viruses.
Dr. Diaz explains, “The virus attaches to any mucous membrane which is basically a moist membrane in the body. And there are certain receptors that we know, that it attaches to preferentially such as the ACE-2 receptor. And it can be an entry point by which the virus can then propagate through the rest of the body.”
That’s why it’s important to wash those hands. As well as not touching our face, but that’s a tough habit to break.
“It’s hundreds of times a day,” says Dr. Diaz. “And we don’t even realize we’re doing it most of the time.”
Glasses or contacts?
He answers, “If you have a choice between glasses and contact lenses, this might be a good time to stay with glasses for now because it provides a physical barrier to droplets getting into the eye.”
With eye care clinics reopening, patients can expect to see changes.
“It’s ever more important to clean the equipment in between patients — for the doctor to be washing their hands between patients. Things that were good practice before but even more important now. And that’s something patients should maybe vigilant and encourage their healthcare providers to do,” says Dr. Diaz.
And he warns that now is a good time not to share things such as makeup, towels, cups or utensils.
And if you want to rub your eye or adjust your glasses, use a tissue instead, or make sure to wash your hands every time.