Eye Health During COVID-19

Can COVID-19 be transmitted through the eye? Is extra screen time harmful to our eyes? What's the difference between coronavirus and seasonal allergy symptoms? Dr. Brent Bond talks with BestHealth to answer all of these questions and more.

Disclaimer: learn more about the latest developments on visitor restrictions and testing.

Episode Highlights

How are Coronavirus and eye health connected?

At the beginning of this Pandemic, one of the first doctors to raise the concerns of this virus was an ophthalmologist. He was examining patients who were coming to him with red, tearing, irritated eyes. As we now know, this is a part of COVID-19 symptoms. However, we have to be careful about this because right now in our area we have pollen, so just because you get red, tearing, irritated eyes, don’t panic and think that you have Coronavirus. It is much more likely that you have allergies. Some of the redness may be more of a factor of the patient’s underlying disease and treatment rather than the manifestation of Coronavirus. For example, many of our patients through the years, pre-Coronavirus, who were on ventilators had these same eye problems. Just by being on a ventilator can cause this, so some of these patients with eye problems during COVID may have just had these symptoms due to the ventilator. The body is so complex, so we always have to question what’s going on and not always take what’s happening at face value.

Many patients who test positive for coronavirus have also tested positive for having the virus exist within their conjunctival sac within their tears. That is known to occur. If you came in contact with someone with the Coronavirus, the only way you could get it from their eyes, is from their tears. For example, if they used a napkin on their eyes and then you touched it. Conjunctivitis is related to coronavirus but it’s not something you should lose sleep over as it is unlikely to occur.

Is working from home, virtual learning, and more screen time causing too much eye strain?

For parents or guardians of school aged children, when they are spending what you deem to be too much time on the computer, it’s not going to harm their eyes. However, if you spend a lot of time at the computer, your eyes can get dry, especially for us in the older generation. Your eyes may tear a little or become blurry. You can have the same scenario occur if you stare at anything for too long. Staring and concentration causes you to blink less often and your vision begins getting impaired. Every time you blink it helps your eyes from drying out.

There are some eye exercises out there to “strengthen” vision or treat misalignment of the eyes, but usually these aren’t going to be particularly helpful.

During this time, if listeners are having eye problems, how can they see your team for help?

We have been helping our current patients schedule or reschedule their appointments. Our biggest priority is the patient’s safety, so if it’s just a routine check, we are rescheduling. However, for those patients who may have less stable situations, newly discovered disease, just starting treatment, or have severe disease, we have remained open to see those patients. We are actively looking ahead in our schedule to do what’s best for the patient to have them come in if needed, or help determine if they can wait. If you’ve noticed any new vision changes or any pain, we get you in for an appointment. If you get a scratch in your eye or have any acute emergencies, our clinic is also open for those urgent needs.

If you are in need of an appointment you can find us on our website at WakeHealth.edu or call 336-716-WAKE.

What is the future of eye health at Wake Forest Baptist Health?

We are currently developing a free standing eye center that will be located in Downtown Winston-Salem. This new state-of-the-art facility will have many of our services under one roof to best treat our patients.