As of early January 2022, nearly all new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and U.K. were caused by the Omicron variant. The World Health Organization (WHO) labeled Omicron a “variant of concern” back in November, and it has quickly spread to hundreds of countries. Like other variants of coronavirus, Omicron may cause eye symptoms in some individuals.
To protect your eye health, it’s important to stay on top of the latest variants and the symptoms they may cause. Here’s everything we know about how the Omicron variant affects the eyes.
Omicron and Eye Health
At this point, there’s not much that we know about the Omicron variant and how it affects the body, including the eyes. What we do know is that this variant appears to cause more mild symptoms compared to Delta and other variants. Still, this doesn’t mean that you should let your guard down. COVID can cause serious complications, particularly in those who are vulnerable.
In some cases, we do know that COVID-19 can cause eye symptoms such as pink eye. Pink eye is inflammation of the conjunctiva, and it often occurs alongside other common upper respiratory infections like colds or the flu. Since COVID-19 can cause these symptoms, it can also lead to conjunctivitis.
Here are some other possible eye-related side effects that can happen from COVID, including the Omicron variant. A study published in BMJ Open Ophthalmology found that 16-18 percent of people with COVID-19 had the following eye symptoms:
- Light sensitivity
- Itchy eyes
- Sore eyes
- Blurry vision
- Red, bloodshot eyes
How to Protect Your Eyes from Omicron
Because we don’t know much about any of the COVID strains, it’s important to be proactive. Here are some of the best ways to protect your eyes from COVID, including the latest Omicron threat.
- Sanitize your glasses. COVID can live on surfaces for 1-3 days, so clean and sanitize your glasses using simple soap and water or a diluted solution of 70 percent of isopropyl alcohol. Then dry the lenses with a soft cloth.
- Change your contacts regularly. Even though there is no current evidence that suggests that wearing contacts increases the risk for Omicron, it’s still important to change your contacts regularly and clean them with a sterile cleaning solution.
- Avoid touching the eyes. To help prevent infections, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. These mucous membranes are a portal of entry for germs and bacteria, particularly those that cause respiratory infections.
- Wash your hands regularly. Because you can infect yourself with COVID by touching your eyes, it’s also important to keep your hands clean. Wash your hands frequently or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
And finally, if you have COVID-19 and are experiencing eye symptoms, contact your eye doctor right away. It’s important not to self-diagnose your symptoms as they can signal something more going on.