At the end of December of last year, the Omicron variant had been reported in most parts of the country. Since its emergence, the virus has spread more rapidly than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. Therefore, the CDC suspects that anyone with Omicron can spread the virus, regardless of their vaccination status.
In spite of this, COVID vaccines have proven to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and even death. Even so, breakthrough infections can still occur and cause symptoms.
One unusual symptom that has been linked to Omicron has stood out in particular. This surprising symptom can inflict havoc on the eyes and might be an early indicator that someone has been infected with COVID-19.
COVID-19 And Your Eyes
Among the most common complaints of those with omicron are cough, sore throat, fever, or loss of taste or smell. However, some patients also are plagued with something more unusual: itchy eyes.
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, could be an early sign of Omicron according to American Academy of Ophthalmology. Although uncomfortable, conjunctivitis is milder than typical COVID symptoms.
Conjunctivitis is inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, clear tissue that lines the inner side of the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball. It is also one of the most common eye infections that occurs in adults and children alike. So if this is the only symptom, it may be difficult to detect if it’s COVID.
In an interview with Express, Dr. Nisa Aslam shed light on how Omicron may affect the eyes. “Cell receptors by which Covid variants enter the body are present in the eye,” she explained. “The virus penetrates the body by tricking the receptors for the Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE-2) into thinking the virus is the ACE-2 enzyme.”
Aslam further explained, “These receptors [were] found in different parts of the eye–cells which line the retina, eye white, and eyelid.”
A study published in the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology supported Dr. Asalam’s claim that conjunctivitis is a symptom of COVID-19. A young woman repeatedly presented to the hospital with red eyes, watery discharge, and minimal respiratory symptoms. She was later diagnosed with COVID-19. Due to this, conjunctivitis is now considered to be a possible symptom of COVID.