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Study: Sore eyes a common symptom in COVID-19 patients


Ocular symptoms in COVID-19 patients may be more common than previously thought — with sore eyes a significant sign of disease.

In a study published by BMJ Open Ophthalmology, investigators sought to determine three objectives: whether ocular symptoms were different in chronic sufferers of anterior eye diseases; when the symptoms were experienced; and how long the symptoms lasted when compared to other COVID-19 patients.

Results of an online questionnaire of self-reported data from 83 participants over the course of two months with confirmed diagnoses of COVID-19 sought to ascertain the type, frequency and duration of different disease symptoms.

Additionally, investigators compared anterior eye symptoms experienced by respondents before their diagnosis and during the COVID-19 state.

Results found the most reported symptoms to be dry eye (66%), fever (76%), fatigue (90%), and lose off smell/taste (70%).1

Further results found that participants reported a number of ocular symptoms indicative of viral conjunctivitis.

The most three common ocular symptoms included photophobia (18%), sores eyes (16%), and itchy eyes (17%). Of those, the presence of sore eyes was significantly higher in patients during their COVID-19 state (16%) versus their pre-COVID-19 state (5%).1

Data on these results of ocular symptoms before and during COVID-19 confirmed cases using the McNemar’s test for paired comparisons can be seen in Table 1.1

Participants also reported dry eye symptoms more frequently before (23%) rather than during their COVID-19 state (14%) — a change investigators found surprising. However, this was found to be lacking any statistical significance.

Similarly, symptoms reported by participants with an association to various types of conjunctivitis — including mucous discharge and gritty eyes linked to bacterial infection — did not have significant results.

Investigators found that 81% of participants reported experiencing ocular symptoms within two weeks of other COVID-19 symptoms, and 80% reported the symptoms lasting less than two weeks.

Despite conjunctivitis being linked as a potential indicator of COVID-19, the study’s investigators concluded that “conjunctivitis” — a broad term — should be used with caution when in association of the disease.


1. Pardhan S, Vaughan M, Zhang J, et al. Sore eyes as the most significant ocular symptom experienced by people with COVID-19: a comparison between pre-COVID-19 and during COVID-19 states. BMJ Open Ophthalmology 2020;5:e000632. doi: 10.1136/bmjophth-2020-000632

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