Optometrists Laura and Genevieve in Masks at a conference
July 20, 2022

SRC Mini: How COVID infection can impact the eyes

SRC Mini Conference

Over the weekend our Optometrists Genevieve and Laura attended SRC Mini, a one day conference hosted by our Victorian/South Australian Optometry Association and one of the many learnings was around how COVID infection can impact the eyes. A few other important lectures centered around an inflammatory condition of the eye, Uveitis, and its systemic disease associations, as well as the role of Optometry in public health.

SRC Mini: How COVID infection can impact the eyes - Canterbury Eyecare
SRC Mini Conference opening, Ilsa Hampton OVSA CEO

Research around COVID infection impacts on the eyes

Over the last 2 years there has been a huge amount of clinical research around COVID infection, many have also commented on possible effects in the eyes. However, as with any novel disease there is a vast array of data to make sense of, and in some cases it can take years for the most important outcomes to be found.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology released a paper “4 Ways COVID leaves it’s mark on the eyes” which reports initial concerns with COVID infection were around conjunctivitis development, however now the larger concern is about the impacts of COVID infection on the blood vessels inside the eye, at the retina. At the SRC Mini conference, a presentation focused on the specific conditions which develop in the retina after COVID infection.

What condition in the eyes is most common after COVID infection?

In particular, COVID infection can cause an occlusion of an artery or vein inside the eye. Occlusions of the arteries inside the eye are sometimes termed “Mini Strokes” because of their association with being a warning sign for carotid artery narrowing, they’re often sight threatening. Occlusions of the veins inside the eyes from COVID infection are also sight threatening in some cases, in particular if swelling or odema of the macula develops.

Who is at greatest risk of developing eye complications from COVID infection?

Generally people with underlying vascular disease are at a greater risk of developing complications in the eye from COVID infection. In particular those with:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • blood disorders
  • auto-immune conditions

What symptoms might you experience?

Symptoms of retinal vein or artery occlusion are usually in one eye at a time only and can include:

  • Sudden onset vision loss
  • New floaters or black spots in vision
  • Gradual change in vision
  • New blind spots
  • Temporary loss of vision

These may happen whilst actively infected with COVID or after a few weeks.

SRC Mini: How COVID infection can impact the eyes - Canterbury Eyecare
Retinal Vein Occlusion
Copyright @ Online Journal of Ophthalmology. Author(s): Viestenz, A.,

What to do if you develop these symptoms with COVID infection?

Contact your Optometrist or the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital for further advice, especially if actively infectious. Treatment is available but depends on the specific occlusion type (vein vs artery). In some cases urgent assessment at a hospital is necessary, however in some cases only regular monitoring by your optometrist is appropriate.

if you have any concerns about post-COVID infection affects on the eyes, please contact us at 9888 6377. Or instantly book an appointment with one of our Optometrists.

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