Covid-19 is known to affect our eyes and around 1-3 per cent of people infected with the disease get conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. But can Covid also lead to vision loss? How does Covid affect our eyes? A recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology says the incidence of retinal vein occlusions appeared to increase in 6 months after Covid-19 diagnosis. Retinal vein occlusion occurs when a blood clot blocks the vein which in some cases could cause vision loss. Previous studies have suggested how Covid-19 can increase risk of serious blood clots up to six months after Covid.- (Also read: Study says Omicron can raise risk of heart attack in children; expert tips for protection)
“Covid has been associated with increased incidence of thromboembolic phenomenon (blockage of blood vessels) in the body. Increased incidence of heart attacks and stroke have been known to occur. Another manifestation of this phenomenon is blockage of retinal blood vessels leading to vision loss.” says Dr. Sameer Kaushal – Head of Ophthalmology, Artemis Hospitals Gurgaon.
Dr Kaushal adds that since retinal blood vessels are easily visible, mild manifestation haven been seen in significant percentage of Covid patients and serious manifestations leading to vision loss are rare.
What is retinal vein occlusion?
Explaining more about the disorder, Dr. S. Natarajan, Chief, Clinical Services, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital, A unit of Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital said, “retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a common cause of vision loss in older individuals, and the second most common retinal vascular disease after diabetic retinopathy. It is normally seen in patients above the age of 55 years, and risk factors include Diabetes, hypertension, smoking, hyperlipidaemia.”
Covid-19 and the risk of eye disorders
Dr Natarajan says that there have been many studies that say Covid-19 can cause multiple ocular disorders such as conjunctivitis, orbital mucor mycosis (black fungus), optic neuropathy, retinovascular disorders, uveitis and neuro-ophthalmological disorders and it is important for patients recovering from Covid to get their eyes checked.
“Often, many of these abovementioned disorders are asymptomatic during their early stages, and create visual loss and disturbances once they have reached an advanced stage,” warns Dr Natarajan.
“No special preventive medicine is recommended since the incidence of these serious eye manifestation is low. Early detection and appropriate treatment remains the main way to tackle this problem,” says Dr Kaushal.
Dr Natarajan says patients who do develop ophthalmic manifestations of Covid-19 should not worry and seek immediate help to prevent complications.
“The first step to resolving the issue is awareness. Being aware of the possible ocular complications of Covid, and being able to recognise the symptoms itself is half the battle won. Timely intervention by the right specialist will solve the rest of the problem,” the expert concludes.