New evidence suggests that eye redness might be a symptom of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. On March 23, 2020, CNN reported that a nurse at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, recalled red eyes being a clinical sign in some elderly residents who had developed COVID-19. Twenty-nine people associated with the nursing home died from coronavirus complications, including 18 residents of the nursing home.
“It’s something that I witnessed in all of them (the patients),” Chelsey Earnest told CNN. “They have, like, um — you can describe it like allergy eyes. The white part of the eye is not red. It’s more like they have red eye shadow on the outside of their eyes.”
“But we’ve had patients that just had red eyes as the only symptom that we saw, and go to the hospital and pass away in the hospital,” Earnest said. Despite this observation from the early outbreak of COVID-19 among nursing home residents in Kirkland, it may be that red eyes are not a common or reliable symptom of the disease. It appears the connection between red eyes and COVID-19 is not a widespread phenomenon with the disease.
Pink eye and coronavirus
COVID-19 may cause pink eye, or conjunctivitis — inflammation of the clear tissue covering the white part of the eye and lining the inside of the eyelids — but only in about 1% to 3% of infected people. Symptoms of conjunctivitis include eye redness and irritation. The virus may be spread to the eyes by touching or rubbing your eyes with fingers that have become contaminated by the coronavirus.
Some patients seeking treatment for conjunctivitis might be infected with COVID-19 if they also show these symptoms:
• Fever
• Cough
• Shortness of breath
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