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COVID-19 Conjunctivitis / Pink Eye

Conjunctivitis and COVID-19

With talk about COVID-19 now being prevalent in most of our daily lives, you might of seen or heard the word conjunctivitis or pink eye in relation to the virus. In optometry, conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) is a common condition seen by optometrists. Pink eye can be caused by many different reasons. But it is now also defined as a possible symptom of the COVID-19 virus.

What is Conjunctivitis / Pink Eye?

Conjunctivitis, most commonly referred to as pink is in the inflammation of the conjunctival tissue, the clear membrane that lines the inner eyelids and white part of the eyes. This inflammation causes red injection within the eyes and is often accompanied by a feeling of irritation, watering, or discharge. There are many different reasons or causes of conjunctivitis. A person can suffer from red eyes because of allergies, chemical or mechanical irritation, along with bacterial or viral infection. Identifying between the different types of conjunctivitis can be difficult, but for general symptoms associated to the different types, read our blog article all about pink eye.

COVID-19 and Conjunctivitis

As I am sure you are aware of all the information being spread through the news and media, Covid-19 presents differently from person to person. A person can have an asymptomatic infection of COVID-19, where they have no signs that they are sick. A person can become sick with COVID-19 and experience symptoms much like the flu. Or in a worst-case scenario, a person can become severely ill and may require medical intervention such as hospitalization.
People can experience many different symptoms with the COVID-19 virus. Some more common symptoms are fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, sore throat, or runny nose. But there are other symptoms which people can experience with COVID-19 which are a little less common such as having pink eye. It is even possible for a person to have a case of COVID-19 where their only symptom is pink eye. This was recently the case for an Edmonton woman, who was diagnosed as COVID-19 positive with pink eye as her only symptom.

What should I do if I have pink eye?

If you have a case of pink eye, please don’t go out into the public as a case of pink eye is now defined as a possible symptom of the COVID-19 virus.
Optometrists in Alberta have been instructed to discourage patients from coming into their office for assessment of pink eye problems. This is to minimize potential exposure of staff and the public if the case of pink eye is COVID related. If you do have a current case of pink eye, Alberta Health Services asks you to self-isolate immediately and complete the online COVID-self assessment to see if you can obtain COVID testing.
Along with the Alberta Health Service’s online assessment tool, If you have a case of conjunctivitis, you can always contact our office by phone to set up a phone call consult with one of our optometrists. As there are many things that can cause a case of pink eye, our optometrists will go over the characteristics of your pink eye problem, to determine the best course of treatment to help provide relief from pink eye symptoms as well as to resolve your issue.

What can I do to keep my eyes safe?

To prevent Conjunctivitis, wash your handsAs the scientific community still investigates and debates how cases of COVID is commonly spread within the community setting, there are some things that you can do to try and keep yourself safe from catching the virus. One of the most important things to do is keep your hands clean! Do this by frequently washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. If soap and water to wash is not available, using hand sanitizer is your next best bet. Washing hands not only reduces our chances of catching a COVID viral infection, but it also reduces the chances of catching exposing our bodies to other bacterial and viral infections like the flu and common cold viruses.
Along with clean hands, avoid touching your face. It is not often talked about, but viruses can enter our bodies through our eyes. Our eyes are a large exposed mucous membrane. This membrane is there to help prevent dirt from entering our bodies through our eyes. But unfortunately,  this mucous membrane is also an easy access point for viral infections to enter the body as well. This can happen if someone coughs or sneezes in your direction and their infected respiratory droplets come into contact with the eyes. Or you can infect your eyes by touching or rubbing your eyes after touching an infected surface with virus present on it.
If you have any questions regarding your eye health during the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to call our office to speak with one of our knowledgable optometrists or eyecare practitioners.
This article was written by Trina Vanaalst, Licensed Optician and Registered Contact Lens Practitioner

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