COVID-19 can sometimes cause itchy eyes, often due to conjunctivitis. But it’s important to know that COVID-19 can also cause more serious eye issues.
People continue to experience the health consequences of COVID-19, ever since it first appeared as a pandemic. By now you may be familiar with many of the common symptoms, including fever, fatigue, and cough.
It’s also possible for COVID-19 to affect the eyes. When this happens, it can sometimes lead to itchy eyes.
Keep reading as we take a closer look at this topic, including how COVID-19 can have eye-related symptoms as well as more serious eye concerns that may need medical attention.
Yes, COVID-19 can affect the eyes.
You may sometimes see this referred to as ocular COVID-19. A
Eye symptoms due to COVID-19 may happen when the virus directly infects the eye and surrounding tissues.
However, eye symptoms may also result from other effects of COVID-19, such as higher levels of inflammation in the body or an increased risk of blood clotting.
Common COVID-19 symptoms
The common symptoms of COVID-19 can include:
- fever, with or without chills
- muscle aches
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- loss of smell or taste
- shortness of breath
- gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting
COVID-19 can cause itchy eyes. This is likely to be due to conjunctivitis, the
Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the clear membrane that lines the whites of your eyes and the insides of your eyelids. Eye irritation, which can include itching or burning, is a potential symptom of conjunctivitis.
Other possible causes of itchy eyes that have been linked to COVID-19 are dry eyes and blepharitis.
Dry eyes are when your eyes don’t make enough tears. When this happens, your eyes can become irritated, itchy, or scratchy.
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelid. In addition to having eyelids that are red or swollen, people with blepharitis can also have an itching, burning, or stinging sensation in their eyes.
Some of the other potential eye symptoms related to COVID-19 can include:
- red eyes
- dry eyes
- feeling like you have something in your eye
- watery eyes
- eye discharge
- eye pain
- blurry vision
- sensitivity to light
In addition to conjunctivitis, dry eyes, and blepharitis, COVID-19 can also lead to eye conditions like:
- uveitis, inflammation of the tissue in the middle layer of the eye
- scleritis, inflammation of the white of your eye (sclera)
- episcleritis, inflammation of the tissue between the conjunctiva and the sclera
- optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve
- retinal complications, such as blood clots that block blood flow to the retina
The COVID-19 vaccine can also affect the eyes, likely due to the body’s immune response to the vaccine. However, COVID-19 vaccine-related eye effects are
Some of the eye issues that have been reported after the COVID-19 vaccine include:
- eyelid swelling or rash
- shingles of the eye
- reactivation of herpes keratitis
- optic neuritis
- retinal complications
- rejection of corneal transplants
- Bell’s palsy, a type of weakness or paralysis affecting one side of the face
In addition to COVID-19, other viruses can lead to itchy eyes. These viruses can also cause conjunctivitis. They include:
- adenoviruses, which cause
up to 90%of all cases of viral conjunctivitis
- herpes simplex virus (HSV), which can also cause oral and genital herpes
- varicella zoster virus (VZV), which can also cause chickenpox and shingles
- certain enteroviruses and coxsackieviruses
Both HSV and VZV are also potential causes of blepharitis.
If you have COVID-19 and get itchy eyes, there are things that you can do at home to help.
- You can periodically press a cool, damp towel or washcloth to the affected eye or eyes.
- Another option is artificial tears. These are available over the counter and can be used to lubricate the eyes, helping reduce eye discomfort like itching.
- Always be sure to wash your hands before and after touching your eyes.
Also, avoid sharing household items and eye drop bottles with others.
If itchy eyes become very bothersome, you can make an appointment with your eye doctor. They will evaluate your eyes and the symptoms you’re experiencing. They may also prescribe a treatment to help ease your symptoms.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology notes that eye pain and sudden vision changes signal a potentially serious eye problem and require emergency medical attention. Vision changes include things like:
- blurry vision
- double vision
- seeing spots or floaters
- any type of vision loss
COVID-19 can cause itchy eyes. When this happens, it’s likely due to conjunctivitis, which is the most common eye condition associated with COVID-19. Infection can also cause more serious eye issues that may require medical attention.
Itchy eyes due to COVID-19 can be relieved by applying a cool compress or by using artificial tears. Consult your eye doctor if your itchy eyes are very bothersome, don’t get better, or become worse with at-home care.