COVID-19 is a respiratory infection caused by SARS-CoV-2 that typically causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and cough. It can also lead to symptoms that affect other parts of your body, such as your eyes or gastrointestinal tract.
Burning eyes is one possible symptom of COVID-19. But it’s relatively uncommon and can have many other causes.
Experiencing eye pain without flu symptoms is unlikely to be a sign of COVID-19. Eye pain is more likely to be a sign of COVID-19 when you also experience more typical COVID-19 symptoms.
Read on to learn how you tell when burning eyes may be a sign of COVID-19 as well as what else may cause this symptom.
COVID-19 can potentially cause burning of your eyes. But this is a relatively rare symptom.
The most common COVID-19 symptoms to look out for along with these eye symptoms include:
- muscle pain or feelings of fatigue
- loss of smell or taste
The SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 enters your cells through an enzyme called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). This enzyme is also found in your lungs, heart, blood vessels, gastrointestinal tract, and the
It’s thought that the virus may enter your eyes through this enzyme, which leads to eye symptoms.
These were the most common symptoms among people who developed eye symptoms:
- dry eyes (16 percent)
- redness (13.3 percent)
- itching (12.6 percent)
- eye pain (9.6 percent)
- discharge (8.8 percent)
- blurred or decreased vision (8.2 percent)
- light sensitivity (7.2 percent)
- swelling of your eye membranes (4.9 percent)
- irritation (2.4 percent)
- grittiness (1.6 percent)
- burning (0.9 percent)
- swollen eyelid (0.9 percent)
In very rare cases of COVID-19, it is possible to develop eye symptoms with no other symptoms of COVID-19.
Many other conditions besides COVID-19 can cause burning eyes. Here are a few of the possibilities.
Allergies are a very common cause of burning eyes.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, itchiness, watering, or redness of your eyes is usually a sign of allergies rather than COVID-19. But allergies don’t cause a fever, so experiencing a fever may indicate that you’re dealing with COVID-19 or another viral infection.
Allergy symptoms can occur by themselves or along with other symptoms like sneezing or a stuffy nose. Common triggers include:
- grass, tree, and weed pollen
- pet dander
- dust mites
- cigarette smoke
- vehicle exhaust
- perfume or other fragrances
Pink eye (or conjunctivitis) is swelling, inflammation, and redness of your eye caused by viral or bacterial infections, allergies, or chemicals.
- pink or red color of your eye
- burning or irritation
- crusting on your eyelids or lashes
- eye discharge
Pink eye is an uncommon symptom of COVID-19.
Pterygium is a noncancerous growth that covers the membrane of your eye. It may not cause symptoms and treatment isn’t always needed.
When it does cause symptoms, they can include:
- blurred vision
Chemical burns of the eye can lead to pain, burning, swelling, and blurred vision. Many common household products can lead to burns, such as vinegar, bleach, or glass polish.
Flushing your eyes with lukewarm water immediately can help you minimize damage.
Ocular rosacea is inflammation of the eye that usually affects people with rosacea of the face. The cause is currently unknown.
This condition can produce eye symptoms such as:
- pink eye
- dry eyes
- crust on eyelids or lashes
- blurred vision
- light sensitivity
Other potential causes of burning eyes include:
- dry eyes
- skin care or hair products in your eye
- scratch of your cornea
- exposure to smoke
- exposure to dry air or smog
- exposure to swimming pool chlorine
- overexposure to sunlight
- eye strain
If you don’t have other typical symptoms of COVID-19, you can try treating your eyes at home with eye flushing, cold compresses, or over-the-counter pain medications or eye drops.
If your symptoms don’t respond to home remedies, it’s important to make an appointment with a primary care physician or an ophthalmologist.
If you also experience other symptoms of COVID-19, you should isolate yourself from other people and contact a healthcare professional.
If you have severe symptoms, go to the nearest emergency room or seek immediate medical attention.
COVID-19 doesn’t have a cure. COVID-19 treatment involves:
- treating symptoms
- getting plenty of rest
- staying hydrated
- using medications to reduce fever
Supplemental oxygen and anti-viral drugs such as remdesivir may be used in emergency cases.
For severe eye pain, your doctor may prescribe medicated eye drops to reduce discomfort.
You can potentially reduce eye pain with home remedies, such as:
- soaking a cloth in warm water and applying it over your closed eyes for a few minutes
- freezing a wet cloth for a few minutes in a sealed plastic bag and applying it to your closed eyes
- applying cucumber slices over your eyes to reduce inflammation
- placing cool tea bags on your closed eye
If your eye pain is caused by allergies or irritants, rinsing your eyes with lukewarm water can help remove the particles from your eyes. Antihistamines can also potentially reduce your allergy symptoms.
Burning eyes may also be caused by dryness. Remedies for dry eyes include:
- running a humidifier to increase moisture in the air
- increasing your fluid intake
- using artificial tears
- looking away from your screens more frequently
Prevent eye pain by reducing your chances of eye injuries and following good eye hygiene:
- wear protective eyewear when participating in sports or other activities with a high risk of eye injury
- clean or replace your contacts often and completely
- wear glasses instead of contacts sometimes to let your eyes rest
- avoid sharing pillowcases or towels with somebody with pink eye
- wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes from sunlight and allergens
- give your eyes a break frequently when looking at screens
To reduce your chances of developing COVID-19, the
- washing your hands frequently with soap and water
- using hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available
- wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth
- staying six feet apart from people outside your household
- getting a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to you
- avoiding crowded areas and poorly ventilated spaces
Burning eyes can potentially be a sign of COVID-19, but it’s relatively uncommon. It’s unlikely that burning eyes without flu-like symptoms is caused by COVID-19.
If you don’t have a fever or other typical symptoms of COVID-19, it’s more likely that you’re dealing with allergies or another eye issue. In this case, home remedies and over-the-counter treatments are likely enough to address the symptoms you’re experiencing.