Eye health & coronavirus

Worried about your eyes & coronavirus (COVID-19)? Here’s what our expert optometrists have to say...

Wondering whether your eye health is affected by coronavirus? We’re here to offer information and advice as we separate fact from fiction.

Are eye symptoms a sign of COVID-19?

Conjunctivitis is the only eye-related symptom that the World Health Organization (WHO) list as a symptom of coronavirus, but this only affects a few people (less than three percent).

Impaired eyesight or blurred vision isn’t a symptom that is currently listed in the UK national case definition for coronavirus.

If you’re concerned about your eyes or sight, you can contact Boots Opticians for expert eyecare advice on 0345 125 3768.*

What is conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is an inflammation of the clear moist layer that protects the front of the eye. There are different types of conjunctivitis, including bacterial, viral and allergic.

Conjunctivitis often causes the eyes to be watery or produce a mild mucous or sticky yellow discharge. They can also look red or pink – hence the name ‘pink eye’.

Vision can be temporarily blurred as the mucous or watery discharge is blinked across the front of the eye. Think of it in the same way as a car windscreen wiper swipes muck across the windscreen after you’ve squirted the water washers.

Eyes that are sticky or blurry with conjunctivitis are often worse after waking up, but the sticky discharge can easily be cleaned away.

What should I do if I think I have conjunctivitis?

There are several things you can do to help treat and soothe symptoms of conjunctivitis on your own.

Boil some water and leave it to cool down before soaking some cotton balls and gently wiping any crusts from your eyes. You can do this in the morning and up to two other times during the day. Alternatively, hold a cold flannel to your eyes to cool off any burning or itching.

If you're still experiencing symptoms, speak to your optometrist or pharmacist who'll suggest a suitable treatment.

Bacterial conjunctivitis often gets better on its own within a week, but in some cases, your pharmacist may recommend eye drops or ointment.

Viral conjunctivitis, on the other hand, will just get better on its own – there’s no treatment for this.

As for allergic conjunctivitis, the following treatments are usually used to help ease symptoms:

• Lubricating eye drops

• Antihistamine eye drops or tablets

• Mast cell stabiliser eye drops

We’d recommend you keep away from irritants or chemicals that may be causing your conjunctivitis. If you can’t, lubricating eye drops may help to ease your symptoms.

I wear contact lenses, are they safe to wear during the coronavirus pandemic?

Yes, your contact lenses are safe to wear. As always, we encourage all contact lens wearers to follow proper care instructions. This includes thoroughly washing, cleaning, and drying your hands before handling the contact lenses. If you’re feeling unwell and you wear contact lenses, we’d suggest you switch to wearing glasses as they may be more comfortable.

What should I do if I think I have COVID-19 symptoms?

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, please contact NHS 111.

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