Ocular symptoms in COVID-19 infection: a survey study

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of ophthalmic inflammation and infection








COVID-19; Infection; Inflammation; Ocular surface; Survey study


BACKGROUND: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) systemic symptoms and sequelae have been studied extensively, but less is known about the characterization, duration, and long-term sequelae of ocular symptoms associated with COVID-19 infection. The purpose of this study was to analyze the frequency, spectrum, and duration of ocular symptoms in participants with COVID-19 infection treated in inpatient and outpatient settings. METHODS: A retrospective electronic survey was distributed to NIH employees and the public who reported testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. The anonymous survey collected information on demographics, past ocular history, systemic COVID-19 symptoms, and ocular symptoms. RESULTS: A total of 229 (21.9% male and 78.1% female, mean age 42.5 ± 13.9) survey responses were included. Ocular symptoms were reported by 165 participants with a mean of 2.31 ± 2.42 symptoms. The most commonly reported ocular symptoms were light sensitivity (31.0%), itchy eyes (24.9%), tearing (24.9%), eye redness (24.5%), and eye pain (24.5%). Participants with ocular symptoms had a higher number of systemic symptoms compared to participants without ocular symptoms (mean 9.17 ± 4.19 vs 6.22 ± 3.63; OR: 1.21; 95% CI: 1.11 - 1.32; p < 0.001). Ocular symptoms were more common in those who reported a past ocular history compared to those who did not (81.8% vs 67.1%; OR: 2.17; 95% CI: 1.08 - 4.37; p = 0.03). Additionally, the onset of ocular symptoms occurred most frequently at the same time as systemic symptoms (47.5%), and 21.8% reported symptoms lasting ≥ 14 days. CONCLUSIONS: Ocular surface-related symptoms are the most frequent ocular manifestations, and systemic disease severity is associated with the presence of ocular symptoms. Additionally, our results show that ocular symptoms can persist post-COVID-19 infection. Further work is needed to better understand ocular symptoms in COVID-19 and long-term sequelae.


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