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COVID and the Eyes: Part 1

As an optometrist, these past six months have brought on many new challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic. I wanted to write some blogs in multiple parts to help inform and help my patients and anyone else out there that may be struggling at this time.

In Part 1, I want to talk about eye diseases. I am seeing much more eye disease than I saw pre-pandemic. There are 5 in particular I want to address.

The first three eye diseases, Herpes Simplex, Herpes Zoster, and Central Serous Choroidopathy, all have different causes, but one thing that they all have in common is that they can be brought on by stress. I know that you have stress right now!

· Herpes Simplex and Zoster and viruses that usually lay dormant in our bodies once they have been contracted. Certain situations, like stress, can reactivate the viruses, causing a variety of presentations, including eye problems.

  • Herpes Simplex will present with symptoms including red eyes, pain, light sensitivity, watering eyes, decreased vision, rashes on the eyelids, and fever blisters.

  • Herpes Zoster presents with scalp pain and/or tingling sensations, discomfort, skin rashes, blurred vision, eye pain, and red eyes.

  • Central Serous Choroidopathy is seen often in many patients that are undergoing stressful situations. Fluid can leak under the retina and push the retina up, causing blurred vision.

To prevent these three diseases from manifesting, can I say don’t stress? I know that is not possible, but try to manage your stress to the best of your ability. Take time out to meditate, gather your thoughts, and enjoy life as much as you can. Practice your breathing, perform yoga, or go for walks to prevent a build-up of stress. If you have a known history of herpes and are on medication, now is not the time to stop taking it. Please keep maintaining your current dosage of medications.

If you experience any of the above symptoms, especially sudden blurred vision, please call your optometrist at once so we can help you earlier than later. We can prescribe medication and other remedies to help you heal quickly.

The second two eye diseases that I am seeing are caused more by the masks that we are wearing. Masks are causing our exhaled breath to move up into the eyes instead of away from the face. This is leading to an increase in Styes (Hordeola and Chalazia) and Dry Eye Syndrome.

  • A stye will present as a raised bump on one of your four eyelids. It may be red and often painful to the touch.

  • Dry Eye Syndrome presents in various forms, including burning, a gritty eye (foreign body sensation), painful pins and needles feeling, watering eyes, and fluctuating vision.

To prevent this, you can make sure that you have a tight fit of your mask. A mask with a wire on the top that bends with the nose is good to help with this. Not wearing a mask is definitely NOT the way to go. Masks are necessary at the moment to help the spread of COVID.

There are a few different types of eye dryness and styes due to masks. Depending on the type, your optometrist will recommend the best treatment option for you. It is best to talk to the optometrist sooner than later to help you recover more quickly.

As you can see, you are not going through this alone. Optometrists are here to help you so that you can have the healthiest eyes possible in these trying times. Stay tuned for our next blog where we will talk about eye fatigue and eye strain due to increased computer and cell phone use. This will be good information for you and your children!


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