Is Pink Eye a Symptom of Covid?

Covid-19 symptoms go beyond coughing

By now, we’re familiar with the most common symptoms of Covid-19: shortness of breath, coughing, and fever.

Still, experts are discovering other, less common, and perhaps more surprising symptoms: conjunctivitis, aka pink eye.

Sonal Tuli, MD, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, estimates that about 5 percent of Covid-19 patients develop this eye symptom.

If you develop pink eye, don’t immediately assume you have Covid-19, but don’t dismiss the possibility either.

“In this day age, we have to be thinking about Covid-19,” notes Rahul T. Pandit, MD, associate professor of clinical ophthalmology with the Blanton Eye Institute at Houston Methodist.

What is conjunctivitis?

© bukharova/Getty Images

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is an umbrella term, says Dr. Tuli. “We look at pink eye as this bucket into which you put anything that causes your eye to get red or pink,” she explains.

Viruses are the most common reason for conjunctivitis, but bacteria and allergies are also potential culprits.

Typically, there are other symptoms as well: watery eyes, feeling like there’s a foreign object in your eye, as well as itching or burning in addition to pinkness or redness. (Learn more about conjunctivitis symptoms.)

What’s the connection between pink eye and Covid?

Given that viruses are the most frequent cause of pink eye, it makes sense that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, could be among them.

And like your nose and mouth, your eyes are lined by mucous membranes (conjunctiva), the primary way SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses enter your body. That’s why healthcare workers are required to wear face shields and goggles.

It’s unclear if the virus can be transmitted through eye fluid, although SARS-CoV-2 is detectable in tears.

How would I know pink eye is from Covid-19?

Because symptoms are largely the same regardless of what’s causing the pink eye, there really isn’t a good way to know, says Dr. Tuli.

Covid-related conjunctivitis also isn’t linked with a specific stage of Covid (early or late) or with severity, says Dr. Pandit, who has treated Covid patients with conjunctivitis.

You need to look at the bigger picture. If you have conjunctivitis in tandem with other symptoms of Covid-19 like a fever, cough, shortness of breath, and loss of smell or taste, you could suspect Covid-19, says Louis Morledge, MD, an internist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Also consider your circumstances. Have you had any recent exposures? Were you adequately protected? Are you fully vaccinated? Is there a high level of community spread in your region? Answers could impact your risk.

Should I get tested?

Just having conjunctivitis isn’t reason enough to get tested for Covid-19. But if pink eye is accompanied by Covid-like symptoms, a test might be a good idea.

Dr. Pandit adds this is especially true if the conjunctivitis symptoms are more acute, if there’s a watery discharge, a lot of soreness, pain, and discomfort, and if there’s a pretty swollen, bulgy surface.

The good news is that testing is much easier today than it was earlier in the pandemic. You can get results the same day, if not the same hour, says Dr. Morledge.

“By no means do we suggest that everyone with red eye get tested, but if it’s happening and there’s a history [of symptoms or exposure], it’s reasonable to consider a test,” says Dr. Pandit.

How do you treat pink eye from Covid?

The same way you would treat any other viral pink eye, which is to say you can’t really treat it. You can just take simple measures to alleviate the discomfort until it goes away on its own.

“Mild steroids and cold compresses are helpful,” says Dr. Pandit.

If the symptoms get markedly worse over a 72-hour period, call a doctor, recommends Dr. Morledge. Don’t go to your doctor’s office in case you are infectious.

Is Covid-19 linked with other eye problems?

Yes, but only indirectly.

Research has found that less time in the classroom and more time looking at screens is leading to eyestrain, headaches, dry eyes, and blurred vision in children.

One 2021 study in JAMA Ophthalmology found an increase in near-sightedness among Chinese school children after six months of pandemic isolation.

One solution is to make sure you and your children take frequent breaks from the screen.

Should I wear a face shield or goggles?

You definitely need to wear a mask. It’s less clear that face shields or goggles will add protection, unless you’re a caregiver or healthcare worker.

“As a routine, if you’re going grocery shopping, you don’t necessarily need that unless you’re in a crowded area where you’re standing elbow to elbow,” notes Dr. Tuli. (Learn why fully vaccinated people still need to wear masks.)

The absolute best way to protect yourself and others against Covid-19 is vaccination. Even if this doesn’t fully prevent an infection, you’re much less likely to be hospitalized or die.

Don’t touch your face, and wash your hands well and often. Remember that pink eye, whether or not it’s related to Covid, is also highly contagious.

Eat a few Brazil nuts each day

These nuts are rich in selenium, a protective mineral. In a five-year study, men who took 200 mcg of selenium daily had 63 percent fewer prostate tumors. Brazil nuts are the best food source: just one nut can contain 75 mcg. Learn more about what brazil nut nutrition has to offer.

To learn more about the role of selenium in prostate cancer risk reduction, take a look at this 2019 study by Mark A Moyad, MD, MPH.

Munch pumpkin seeds

These are a source of zinc, a mineral that scientists agree plays a significant role in boosting prostate health, protecting against enlargement and cancerous changes. Have a handful of unroasted seeds a day. Other foods that contain a plentiful supply of zinc include shellfish, meat, milk and dairy products, wheatgerm, and wholegrain cereals. Zinc supplements, however, have been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Besides fighting cancer, zinc may also boost your sex-drive and give you more energy in the bedroom.

Enjoy more mackerel

There are lots of good reasons to eat oily fish (a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids that could add years to your life), such as mackerel or salmon, or take supplements of fish oil, and here’s another. In a study, a low-fat diet with fish oil supplements eaten for four to six weeks before prostate removal was shown to slow the growth of prostate cancer. Those following the diet had fewer rapidly dividing cells in their prostate cancer tissue compared to those who were eating traditional, high-fat Western foods. Linseed oil is another excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids; add a tablespoon of the oil to your food every day for prostate health. If you hate seafood, try these foods packed with just as many omega-3 fatty acids as fish!

Try croton oil

Researchers in a lab study found that the oil from the croton planta shrub native to Southeast Asiakilled off prostate cancer cells and shrank prostate tumors. Ask your doctor if this natural remedy could work for you. Stop believing these myths about prostate cancer right now.

Eat more tomatoes

Men who had ten or more portions of tomatoes a week cut their risk of prostate cancer by more than 45 percent in one recent U.S. study. Lycopene, which gives tomatoes their red color, interferes with the ability of cancer cells to multiply, spread and invade body tissues. Tinned and cooked tomatoes and tomato sauces seem to have the most potent anticancer effect. Check out this list of other foods that are way healthier than you could imagine.

Watch your fat intake

Numerous studies link a high-fat diet and obesity with an increased risk of cancers of the colon, prostate, uterus and breast, and melanoma. Limit saturated fats to less than 10 percent of your total calories each day. Try swapping out the bad fats for healthy fats like monounsaturated fats.

Don’t overdose on vitamin supplements

Vitamins are good for your immune system, but not if you take too many of them. Make sure to get as many vitamins as possible from fresh food (red peppers, garlic, and quinoa are just a few items on the list of superfoods every man needs in his diet), and choose and use supplements sensibly. Take special care with vitamins E and A, which are stored in the body if taken in excess, rather than simply being excreted in the urine. In doses above 250 mg a day, vitamin E can impair, rather than enhance, the day-to-day renewal of body cells, increasing the risk of prostate and other cancers. You need vitamin A to help build immune cells, but supplement doses above 1,000 mcg a day put you at risk of serious liver disease. More than 200 mg a day of vitamin B6 can permanently damage nerves. Doctors say you need to stop wasting your money on these vitamins.

Got heart problems? Ask your doctor about a daily aspirin

If your doctor thinks aspirin is a good way lower your heart attack risk, know that this powerful medicine also has a potential cancer-fighting benefit. Daily aspirin dose may help to prevent the growth of tumors in the prostate, breast, and esophagus. It may also provide some protection against the spread of some types of lung cancer. And a new study shows that these three foods are also surprisingly powerful weapons in fighting prostate cancer — apples, grapes, and curry. Here are the signs of prostate cancer you should never ignore.

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