COVID-19 can affect your eyes. It may lead to blepharitis, which can cause your eyelids to become itchy, irritated, swollen, or feel like they’re burning. Medications can help stop the symptoms, but prevention is the best option.

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COVID-19 can affect many areas of the body, including the eyes. One of the most common eye-related symptoms of COVID-19 is conjunctivitis, which is inflammation of the tissue lining your eyelid and the white of your eye.

But it’s also possible for your eyelids themselves to become inflamed. The medical term for this is blepharitis.

Below, we’ll cover blepharitis in more detail, including its connection to COVID-19, how it can be treated, and some methods to prevent this from happening.

Blepharitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids. This can lead to a variety of uncomfortable symptoms.

Blepharitis is common. The exact prevalence is unknown. But a 2018 article by the American Academy of Ophthalmology that cited a survey of ophthalmologists and optometrists — one of the only recent surveys of its kind in the United States — that found 47% of people seen by an optometrist and 37% of people seen by an ophthalmologist had signs of blepharitis.

There are several potential causes of blepharitis. These can include:

Are blepharitis and dry eye the same?

Inflammation due to blepharitis can lead to problems with the Meibomian glands, which make oils that help to prevent your tears from evaporating too quickly. When these glands don’t produce enough of this oil, it can lead to dry eyes.

However, while blepharitis can lead to dry eyes, it’s definitely not the only cause of this symptom. For example, tears may also evaporate more quickly due to blinking less often, such as when reading or looking at a computer screen for a long period of time, or because of exposure to wind or smoke.

Additionally, dry eyes can also happen due to decreased tear production. This can be caused by things like aging, some underlying health conditions, and the side effects of certain medications.

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It’s possible for people with COVID-19 to experience blepharitis. According to a 2022 review, blepharitis-associated eyelid problems that have been reported with COVID-19 include:

It’s unknown exactly how common blepharitis is during COVID-19. A 2020 study involving 29 people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 found that 11 (38%) had signs of blepharitis. Blepharitis was correlated with a longer length of illness.

The prevalence of COVID-19 blepharitis in non-hospitalized individuals isn’t yet clear.

You can get COVID-19 when tiny virus-containing droplets make direct contact with your nose, mouth, or eyes.

Indeed, COVID-19 transmission via the eye has been documented directly in animal models. Further, some research has found that using eye protection may play a role in reducing the risk of COVID-19 in healthcare workers.

Researchers have found that tissues of the eye like the conjunctiva and cornea also have low levels of receptors that the virus uses to enter a host cell. This means these tissues may be able to be directly infected, leading to eye issues.

However, a 2021 review notes that the virus cannot be isolated from eye secretions in some people with COVID-19 and eye symptoms. This means it’s possible that other factors, such as your body’s response to the infection, may also contribute to eye problems during COVID-19.

The symptoms of blepharitis can include:

One of the main treatments for blepharitis is maintaining good eyelid hygiene. This involves gently cleansing your eyelids each day to help to reduce the amount of oil or flakes that can lead to inflammation and crusting.

Cleaning your eyelids when you have blepharitis typically involves the following steps:

  1. Dip a clean cloth into a mixture of warm water and baby shampoo. Try to avoid using too much shampoo in the mixture, as this may lead to dry eyes.
  2. Press the cloth to your eye for a few minutes. This helps to loosen crusts and oils as well as to open the Meibomian glands.
  3. Gently wipe or massage the area where your eyelashes meet your eyelid.
  4. Rinse your eye with water.
  5. Repeat these steps with the next eye.

It’s also possible that your doctor may prescribe other treatments for blepharitis, such as:

If an underlying condition like allergies, seborrheic dermatitis, or rosacea is causing your symptoms, your doctor will work to treat that. This should help to reduce your blepharitis symptoms.

Are there different treatments if your eyelids are affected because of COVID-19?

If you have blepharitis due to COVID-19, your doctor may recommend one of the treatments above to help manage your symptoms, such as eyelid cleansing or eye drops to reduce discomfort.

It’s also likely that they’ll suggest that you take general measures to care for yourself while you’re ill. These include:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • making sure to stay hydrated
  • using over-the-counter medications to ease other symptoms like fever, sore throat, and aches and pains

If you have COVID-19 and are at a high risk of severe illness, you may also be prescribed Paxlovid. This is an antiviral medication that can help to reduce the severity and length of your illness.

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Regardless of the cause, make an appointment with an eye doctor if your blepharitis symptoms don’t improve after a few weeks of at-home care. They can help to suggest other ways to manage your symptoms effectively.

Further, if you have COVID-19 and experience any of the following eye symptoms, seek prompt care:

Lastly, COVID-19 can become very serious in some individuals. Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you have:

COVID-19 can cause a variety of eye issues. One of these is blepharitis, a condition where the eyelids become inflamed. Symptoms of blepharitis can be uncomfortable. In addition to swollen eyelids, they may include crusting around the eyelids and eyelashes, itching, and dry eyes.

Blepharitis is often treated by cleaning your eyelids daily with warm water and a gentle soap. Eye drops or other treatments may also be recommended, depending on the cause of your symptoms.

If you have COVID-19 and blepharitis, see an eye doctor if your symptoms continue to persist despite at-home care. Seek prompt attention for eye symptoms like redness, pain, and changes in vision.