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Research reveals how Covid-19 affects the eyes

Research reveals how Covid-19 affects the eyes

Monday 11 January 2021

By now we are all familiar with the main symptoms of coronavirus; a high temperature, a new and persistent cough, and a loss of or change to your sense of smell and/or taste. A recent study carried out by researchers at Anglia Ruskin University and published in the journal BMJ Open Ophthalmology has provided more understanding of how the virus travels through the body, and how it could affect the eyes, revealing sore eyes to be the most significant vision-based indicator of Covid-19.

Researchers asked those taking part in the study, all of whom had received a confirmed Covid-19 diagnosis, to complete a questionnaire about their symptoms, indicating how those compared to before they had tested positive. The study found that sore eyes was significantly more common when the participants had Covid-19, with 16% of participants reporting the issue as one of their symptoms. Only 5% reported having had the condition prior to their diagnosis.

Lead author, Professor Shahina Pardhan – Director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, said, “This is the first study to investigate the various eye symptoms indicative of conjunctivitis in relation to Covid-19, their time frame in relation to other well-known Covid-19 symptoms, and their duration.” Pardhan then goes on to acknowledge that a few previous studies have drawn a link between conjunctivitis and coronavirus, but states that, “While it is important that ocular symptoms are included in the list of possible Covid-19 symptoms, we argue that sore eyes should replace ‘conjunctivitis’ as it is important to differentiate from symptoms of other types of infections, such as bacterial infections, which manifest as mucous discharge or gritty eyes.”

Although we are familiar with the fact that coronavirus is primarily transmitted via respiratory (droplet and aerosol) and contact routes, laser eye treatment specialist, Optimax, advise that “Covid-19 can also enter your system through your eyes.”

“Your eyes are lined by mucous membranes, a thick protective fluid. Primarily, this membrane is to stop dirt and grit from entering your body through the eyes, as well as ensuring that your eyes stay well hydrated. However, with Covid-19, this mucous membrane becomes an easy point of access for the virus to enter your body.”

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health professional with any questions you may have.


  1. ARU AC.
  3. AJMC.
  4. Optimax.
  5. Specsavers.


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    15 Jan 2021

    I had cv19 in Jan 20. Long covid symptoms continued for nearly 6 months but conjunctivitis, or so I thought, also occurred. It has continued for the last 12 months as sore, often gritty, eyes. Reading for any length of time remains impossible without having to shut my eyes and let them rest for 15-40 minutes

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