Eyes may signal risk of infection with the new coronavirus

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January 7, 2021

nbc news

Jessica Mayara * / State of Minas

posted on 06/01/2021 20:53

  (credit: Ldc Comunicação / Divulgation)

(credit: Ldc Comunicação / Divulgation)

Research recently published in the journal BMJ Open Ophthalmology found that before the first signs of a COVID-19 infection appear, the eyes can signal the body of the risk of contamination. And that until three weeks before the body feels the classic symptoms of the disease – headache, shortness of breath, loss of smell and taste, fever, sore throat, among others.

Among the most frequent eye changes are dry eye and eye pain. According to the study, carried out by researchers from Anglia Ruskin University, in the United Kingdom, with 83 participants, dry eye reached 23% of the participants in the so-called “pre-COVID”.

This prevalence dropped to 14% when considering the period of infection. Eye pain had a higher incidence during the contamination period (16%).

According to the ophthalmologist Leôncio Queiroz Neto, from the Penido Burnier Institute, the prevalence of dry eye pointed out in the study is almost double the 12% that affects the Brazilian population.

However, the incidence is still high, not for nothing, according to reports by the specialist, in the last few weeks, when the cases of COVID-19 increased again in the country, the attendance of patients with complaints of ocular dryness increased.

In this scenario, the main symptoms of dry eye are: itching, redness, feeling of sand in the eyes and blurred vision. Leôncio Queiroz, however, points out that not all people who present these symptoms may, in fact, be infected and / or become infected in the future, and warns: the tear is essential to prevent the new coronavirus and other microorganisms from penetrating in the eyes.

“Running to the pharmacy to buy artificial tears does not always solve the problem. This is because the tear has three layers – watery, oily and protein – and the eye drops have different substances that act in one of these layers ”, explains the ophthalmologist. According to Leôncio Queiroz, pulsed light treatment is the best alternative.

“The treatment is painless, reduces eye discomfort and makes use of lubricating eye drops. This is because it has a lasting effect that can be felt from the first application. Pulsed light clears a small gland at the edge of the eyelid. Clearance improves the production of the fatty layer of the tear that prevents its evaporation. The study published in the United Kingdom even suggests that maintaining good eye lubrication is the first step in preventing COVID-19 ”, he concludes.

Prevent yourself!

Leôncio Queiroz recommends that prevention be adopted in order to avoid discomfort caused by dry eye, as well as contamination by COVID-19. In this scenario, the ideal is for people to avoid the abusive use of air conditioning and also electronics.

“In addition to facilitating the evaporation of the tear film, confinement in an air-conditioned environment by domestic equipment that does not exchange ambient air facilitates the proliferation of the coronavirus. Therefore, during the pandemic, the rule for using domestic air conditioners that do not change the air in the rooms is to keep windows and doors open to avoid COVID-19 and, also, dry eyes ”, he points out.

Regarding the excessive use of computers, tablets or cell phones during the pandemic, Leôncio Queiroz Neto points out that, as elucidated by a study conducted by him, among adults up to 40 years old, the use of screens for more than two hours causes the tear dryness in 75% of Brazilians. Above this age, this rate reaches 90%.

Between 6 and 9 years old, the dry eye reached 30% of 360 children who stayed up to six hours connected. Therefore, it is essential that people better manage the use of electronic devices in order to benefit health as a whole.

* Intern under the supervision of Teresa Caram

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