2021 Feb 26. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–.
Since December 2019, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has become a global pandemic caused by the highly transmissible severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). There have been several reports of eye redness and irritation in COVID-19 patients, both anecdotal and published, suggesting that conjunctivitis may be an ocular manifestation of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
A study conducted during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak detected SARS-CoV in tear samples in SARS patients in Singapore. Lack of eye protection was a primary risk factor of SARS-CoV transmission from SARS patients to healthcare workers in Toronto, prompting a concern that respiratory illness could be transmitted through ocular secretions. Similar concerns have been raised with SARS-CoV-2, especially among eye care providers and those on the front lines triaging what could be initial symptoms of COVID-19.
As conjunctivitis is a common eye condition, ophthalmologists may be the first medical professionals to evaluate a patient with COVID-19. Indeed, one of the first providers to voice concerns regarding the spread of Coronavirus in Chinese patients was Li Wenliang, MD, an ophthalmologist. He later died from COVID-19 and was believed to have contracted the virus from an asymptomatic glaucoma patient in his clinic.
The authors of this article have attempted to collect the most up-to-date information on ophthalmic manifestations of COVID-19 as a resource for identifying symptoms, providing diagnostic pearls, and mitigating transmission.