HEALTH: Can coronavirus affect your eyesight?

It has been revealed that our eyes might play an important role in the spread and prevention of the coronavirus outbreak threatening China and a number of other countries, including the UK.


UPDATED: 26th June 2020

Boris Johnson

‘I’m finding that I have to wear spectacles for the first time in years – because I think of the likely effects of this thing – so I’m inclined to think there’s some … I think that’s very, very plausible that eyesight can be a problem associated with coronavirus.’

Viral conjunctivitis can make the eyes water and feel gritty and uncomfortable, rather than painful. It does not usually interfere greatly with eyesight.

But if the front of the pupil and the iris (the coloured part of the eye), is also affected, there can be some blurring of vision.

Prof Robert MacLaren, an eye expert at the University of Oxford, said a recent study in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, reported a range of eye problems, including swelling and sticky eye.

"Any of the above symptoms may affect vision and affected patients would be advised to drive with caution or not at all if there was significant blurring of vision or double vision," he said.

After recent interviews with government official regarding driving and vision, we advise if you are concerned with you vision, please contact you optometrists.


UPDATED: 24th April 2020


Scientists at the National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome has found that the corona-virus can linger in patients’ eyes for several weeks and can be a way of spreading the disease. They discovered the virus remained present in “ocular samples” for up to 21 days after hospital admission. They claim that eye fluids from coronavirus patients “may be a potential source of infection”.

However, they suggest that the eye could not also be an entryway for the virus, but a source of contagion too. These findings highlight the importance of control measures such as avoiding touching the nose, mouth and eyes and frequent hand washing.

Source: Annals of Internal Medicine

15th February 2020

The newest coronavirus (formally called 2019-nCoV) first emerged in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China. 

It can trigger illnesses like the common cold, bronchitis, pneumonia and kidney failure; the most severe cases can lead to death.

A top medic who contracted Coronavirus says the deadly respiratory disease is so contagious it can be transmitted through the eyes.

The Peking University respiratory specialist, Wang Guangfa, claims that he contracted the virus himself because of a lack of eye protection when visiting fever clinics and isolation wards in Wuhan, in Hubei province, China where the outbreak emerged.

“At that time we were highly vigilant and wore N95 masks,” he said. “But then I suddenly realised that we didn’t wear protective glasses.”

Dr. Jan Evans Petterson, professor of medicine and pathology in the Long School of Medicine’s infectious diseases division at UT Health San Antonio, confirmed that a scenario like Wang’s potentially could happen.

China’s National Health Commission expert Li Lanjuan said that staff who had direct contact with coronavirus patients needed to wear protective glasses, but ordinary people only needed to wear face masks.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends protective eyewear, among other precautions, if you will be near someone with the virus for an extended period.

UK Chief Medical Officers are advising anyone who has travelled to the UK from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Macau or Italy in the last 14 days and is experiencing cough or fever or shortness of breath, to stay indoors and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild.

In addition, some reports suggest that the virus can cause conjunctivitis and be transmitted by aerosol contact with the conjunctiva. Therefore, patients who go to the optometrist/ ophthalmologist for conjunctivitis and have respiratory symptoms, in addition to having traveled to areas with known outbreaks could be suspect of having the virus.

To avoid catching or spreading germs, the NHS recommends:

  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze

  • put used tissues in the bin straight away

  • wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available

  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean



For any other eye health concerns, book an appointment with our optometrist.