NJ doctor reminds us: COVID-19 can cause ‘pink-eye’
When you think of COVID-19 symptoms, you think of fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle aches and pain, even the loss of smell and taste.
But did you know that pink eye or conjunctivitis can also be a symptom of the novel coronavirus?
Dr. Joseph Calderone of Better Vision New Jersey in Cranford said 1 to 3 percent of coronavirus-infected persons can get conjunctivitis. The sicker a person is with COVID-19, the more likely he or she is to develop conjunctivitis.
Pink eye symptoms include redness and swelling of the eye, itchiness, teary discharge, and sticky lids in the morning.
Calderone said if the conjunctivitis is due to COVID-19, meaning it's viral, there's not much a person can do to get rid of it except wait out the virus.
Pink eye does not cause blindness. But, unfortunately, patients with coronavirus can transmit the disease to others, just like those with other COVID-19 symptoms (and in some cases, asymptomatic people) can transmit the disease. So, if you have COVID-19, you may infect others if you touch your eyes and then touch people or surfaces without washing your hands or disinfecting those surfaces afterward.
Conjunctivitis can also be bacterial. In those cases, it can be treated with antibiotic.
"Obviously, if you can get rid of your conjunctivitis with eye drops for a few days, it ain't COVID," Calderone said.
Allergic conjunctivitis is not common but can occur in the winter months and should also be evaluated and treated by an eye doctor, he added.
Patients who contract viral conjunctivitis, which the doctor can suspect often upon an exam, should be treated as if they may have COVID-19, he said. This means the patient should be tested for coronavirus, and possibly even quarantined if there's enough of a risk involved, he said.