Eye-related side effects have been reported after the COVID-19 vaccination. But these effects are very rare.

There are four different COVID-19 vaccines available in the United States. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is an important step in preventing serious illness due to COVID-19.

As with any vaccine or medication, the COVID-19 vaccine can cause side effects. In rare cases, these may be issues related to your eyes.

Keep reading as we dive deeper into what we know about this topic so far.

Vaccines work by prompting your body to make an immune response to a weakened, inactivated, or partial form of a germ. Because the immune system has memory, it can call upon this response if you’re exposed to the germ in the future.

Eye issues after getting a COVID-19 vaccine are rare. Researchers believe that eye-related effects after COVID-19 vaccination may happen due to the body’s immune response to the vaccine.

Many of the eye effects related to COVID-19 involve inflammation, which is produced during an immune response. When inflammation affects the tissues of the eye, it can lead to eye symptoms or complications.

A 2022 case series on inflammatory eye events related to COVID-19 vaccination found that:

  • the average time from vaccination to eye symptoms was 5 to 6 days
  • over half of people in the study had a previous history of inflammatory eye events
  • topical corticosteroids were used to treat most participants
  • most participants, 92.9%, didn’t have lasting effects on their vision

COVID-19 vaccine safety

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 vaccines are both safe and effective. All of the vaccines used in the United States have needed to meet rigorous scientific standards before being used.

Additionally, a 2022 review on COVID-19 vaccines and the eye notes that the number of reported eye-related effects are remarkably low given the number of people who’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine.

As of writing, almost 670 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given in the United States.

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The general eye symptoms that have been reported in people after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are:

The specific eye issues or complications that people have experienced after receiving one of the COVID-19 vaccines in use in the United States include:

There have also been reported cases of corneal transplant rejection after COVID-19 vaccination. Corneal transplants are used to help restore vision and reduce other symptoms in people with a damaged cornea.

Optic neuritis is inflammation of the optic nerve. It can lead to eye pain and reduced vision. Optic neuritis has been reported after COVID-19 vaccination, but, as with other eye issues that can happen after getting a COVID-19 vaccine, it’s very rare.

A 2022 review found that 34 eyes in 26 people were diagnosed as having optic neuritis. Some of these individuals had received COVID-19 vaccines in use in the United States, such as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

However, others had gotten COVID-19 vaccines not in use in the United States. These include the AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, and CoviShield vaccines.

In this review, the average time from vaccination to eye symptoms was 9.6 days. In most individuals with available follow-up information, vision improved over time with corticosteroid treatment.

Ocular COVID-19 is when COVID-19 affects the eye.

This may happen when the virus directly infects tissues of the eye. It may also occur due to the effects of COVID-19 on the body, including increased inflammation and blood clotting.

A 2021 review included 38 studies involving a total of 8,219 people with COVID-19. It found that the prevalence of eye symptoms due to COVID-19 was 11.03%. The most common symptoms people had included:

Specific eye conditions or diseases have also been reported. The most common of these is conjunctivitis. Others may include:

  • eyelid swelling or rash
  • uveitis
  • choroiditis, an inflammation of the lining of the retina
  • optic neuritis
  • retinal complications

If you develop eye symptoms while you have COVID-19 or after you get the COVID-19 vaccine, make an appointment with your eye doctor. They can evaluate your eyes and recommend an appropriate treatment.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, symptoms like eye pain and new or sudden vision changes can signal a more serious problem for which you should seek emergency care. Examples of vision changes include:

The most common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines include:

According to the CDC, severe reactions to a COVID-19 vaccine are rare, but may include severe allergic reactions, myocarditis or pericarditis, and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

When to seek medical care

It’s important to seek medical care after your COVID-19 vaccination if any of the following are true:

  • Redness, pain, or swelling at your injection site gets worse after a day has passed.
  • Your side effects don’t go away or start to get worse after a few days.
  • You develop any symptoms that are worrisome to you.
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Eye-related side effects have been reported after the COVID-19 vaccination. However, compared to the number of people who’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine, these effects are very rare.

The eye effects associated with COVID-19 vaccines are believed to be due to the body’s immune response to the vaccine. It’s also important to note that COVID-19 infections can also affect the eyes.