Long Covid: 3 symptoms affecting your eyesight that could last for months post-infection

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Some people still suffer with symptoms for months after contracting Covid

Around two million people in the UK are thought to be suffering with long Covid, with symptoms lasting for more than three months after infection.

Certain groups are thought to be more likely to suffer long-lasting effects, with research suggesting women, people who are obese, and those who were put on mechanical ventilation in hospital are at highest risk.

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The NHS says that most people who contract coronavirus will make a full recovery within 12 weeks, but for many the effects can persist for months and symptoms can vary from person to person.

Common long Covid symptoms typically include fatigue, breathlessness, muscle pains, difficulty sleeping and problems with concentration, but some people have reported problems with their eyesight post-infection.

Some people have reported problems with their eyesight post-infection (Composite: Mark Hall / NationalWorld)Some people have reported problems with their eyesight post-infection (Composite: Mark Hall / NationalWorld)
Some people have reported problems with their eyesight post-infection (Composite: Mark Hall / NationalWorld) | Mark Hall / NationalWorld

Can Covid affect your eyesight?

Typically, long Covid patients have reported experiencing the following problems with their eyesight after contracting the virus:

  • Eye fatigue
  • Changes to vision, such as blurred vision
  • Blind spots

Cornea and retina specialists began to notice eye-related complications in patients when the pandemic first broke out, with people urged to watch out for eye-related complications after recovering from Covid.

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Patients had reported suffering with blurred vision while infected and in some cases this had continued long after recovery.

Specialists from L.V. Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) have suggested that blurred vision could be a result of the virus blocking or restricting the blood supply to the retina. This complication is known as retinopathy, which is when the retina is damaged due to abnormal blood flow causing vision impairment.

Raja Narayanan, senior retina consultant at LVPEI, explained: “Retinopathy due to Covid or steroid treatment usually occurs within two to four weeks after Covid has resolved.

“The most common symptom is blurring of vision (not necessarily accompanied by redness or pain). We are seeing patients with retinopathy, either due to a block of the retinal blood vessel or swelling of the retina.”

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A study by researchers from the French Society of Neuroradiology also suggests that long Covid, or possibly the treatment for severe Covid - such as being on a ventilator - may cause nodules to grow on the macula in the eye - the part of the retina responsible for central vision.

Researchers conducted scans on 129 patients who had previously had severe cases of Covid and had to be hospitalised. Results found that 7% of these patients had nodules in the macular region of their eye, and all but one had spent time in intensive care after contracting the virus.

It is unclear whether eye changes are a direct result of Covid or its treatment, but it has been linked to an increased risk of eye conditions, including conjunctivitis and retinopathy, which can result in vision loss.

Dr Peter Hampson, clinical director of the Association of Optometrists, has said that there is a growing body of evidence that suggests infection from Covid can “mirror similar diseases that occur in the eye.

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He told The Mirror: “Covid can cause blood clots and can lead to similar outcomes as those seen in diabetes and hypertension – where the retina can be damaged, which is known as retinopathy."

Dr Hampson added that when the retina is starved of oxygen due to blood vessels being blocked, breaking, or leaking, this can lead to complications, such as damage to your visual field or the sharpness of vision.

People who have noticed changes to their eyesight after contracting Covid and are worried are urged to make an appointment with an optometrist for a sight test and eye health examination.

What support is there for long Covid sufferers?

Anyone who is suffering from persistent symptoms four or more weeks after having Covid is encouraged to seek advice from a GP.

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A doctor may recommend some tests to find out more about the symptoms and to rule out other factors that could be causing them. This may include a blood test, checking your blood pressure and heart rate, or a chest X-ray.

You may be given advice to help manage and monitor symptoms at home, but if the effects are having a disruptive impact on your life, it is possible you may be referred to a specialist rehabilitation service, or a service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have.

More information to support your recovery can be found on the Your COVID Recovery website.

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