According to the reports from a hospital in Wuhan, nearly a quarter of children suffering from covid-19 develop ocular symptoms.
WHAT IS COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the acronym for “coronavirus disease 2019”. This is the official name given by the World Health Organization ( WHO) to this fatal disease.
WHO first came to know about this new, dangerous disease caused by the coronavirus in December 2019. Older generations i.e. people of age 60 years and more are at a higher risk of getting affected because of this virus. People who do not have a very good and healthy medical history and have complicated problems like, blood pressure, cancer, high cholesterol, diabetes etc are even more prone to be at risk at the hands of this coronavirus and develop a serious illness which can later prove fatal. Apart from affecting the victim’s lungs, this virus affects other organs of the body as well. These include kidney, liver and heart.
However, age and medical conditions are now no longer the only parameters to govern as to who is at more risk. Almost anyone can get sick with COVID-19 and become seriously ill or die at any age.
WHAT ARE OCULAR SYMPTOMS?
Ocular rosacea is a kind of inflammation that develops in people who have rosacea ( a chronic skin condition that affects the face). This primarily affects the people of the age group 30-50. The symptoms of this ocular rosacea are what we call as ocular symptoms ( any eye symptom that makes the person uncomfortable can also be simply called as an ocular symptom ).
These symptoms generally include:
- Redness in the eyes
- Itching in the eyes
- Foreign sensation in the eyes
- Blurred vision
DEVELOPMENT OF OCULAR SYMPTOMS IN CHILDREN DIAGNOSED WITH COVID-19
Almost all of the cases of covid-19 reported earlier were found to end with development of ocular symptoms in adults. Little was known about ocular disorders in children who were diagnosed with COVID-19. It is important to be fully aware about the potential of COVID-19 in children to make the ocular disorders develop in their body accompanied by symptoms such as conjunctival discharge, eye rubbing, conjunctival congestion, ocular pain, eyelid swelling or tearing. During the initial stages when the doctors started to discover that covid-19 can result in ocular symptoms in children as well, it was typically not severe. All the symptoms were mild and could recover or improve with time if proper treatment is done.
STUDIES REGARDING THE DEVELOPMENT OF OCULAR SYMPTOMS IN CHILDREN WITH COVID-19
As compared to adults, the effect of covid-19 in children could be very different in terms of exposure history, ocular disorders and clinical characteristics. With this view, researchers decided to investigate the various ocular disorders of children with laboratory-confirmed covid-19.
To conduct the study, the researchers performed a cross-sectional retrospective analysis of children with COVID-19 treated at Wuhan Children’s Hospital in Wuhan, China, between January 26 and March 18, 2020. A total of 216 infected children were included, among whom 62% were boys, with a median age of 7.25 years. Electronic questionnaires were designed to obtain additional information on ocular involvements including onset, duration and offset of the ocular symptoms as a result of covid-19. In certain special cases where the questionnaire could not provide accurate results, a telephonic call or a face-to-face interaction was scheduled up to gather information from the patients.
The results of the study were as follows:
- 22.7% ( i.e. approximately one-fourth of the total strength involved in the study ) of the children, showed various ocular symptoms. Nine out of these children had ocular complaints upon initial presentation.
- Some common ocular symptoms included:
- Conjunctival discharge – showed by 27 children
- Eye rubbing – showed by 19 children
- Conjunctival congestion – showed by 5 children
- Ocular pain – showed by 4 children
- Eyelid swelling – showed by 4 children
- Tearing – showed by only 2 children
- Children with serious and the most common symptoms of coronavirus like cough were found to be nearly twice as likely to develop these ocular symptoms.
- 37.5% of the children showed fever as the only symptom. On the other hand, 36.6% of them showed cough. But the good news is that the majority of them ( i.e. 43.1% ) of them did not show any sort of respiratory disorders.
- Most of the ocular symptoms seen in the children were mild. Twenty three patients recovered quickly without the treatment, while others continuously received antibacterial, antiviral or antiallergic eye drops. There were around eight children who had a persistent habit of rubbing their eyes. These children took more time to recover as compared to the other children involved in the test.
- The median duration of ocular symptoms was seven days.
Although the above study provided us with some really valuable information regarding the development of ocular symptoms in children, there are certain limitations the researchers could not cope up with. These are as follows:
- The researchers failed to acquire some strong pathogenic evidence of ocular disorders developed in children. The descriptions of ocular symptoms can be subjective to some extent, especially in children of young age who are unable to express or describe their discomfort.
- The face-to-face examinations by ophthalmologists were performed in a COVID-19 isolation unit, which was not well equipped with eye examination instruments.
- Children with covid-19 in this study came from one particular city in a country. Therefore, the predicted results may not be generalizable to children present in other geographic locations.
The study conducted in Wuhan concerning a number of children suffering from covid-19 clearly proves that nearly one-quarter of the children involved in the experiment developed ocular symptoms either before or after the disease. Most of the children developed the ocular symptoms later in the disease but nine of them developed these symptoms as initial signs of covid-19.
We know viral illnesses of most types can cause non-specific symptoms when they involve mucus membranes and the respiratory tract. The eyes are physically connected to the nose and the throat, so any sort of virus that is in the mouth, nose and throat has a direct passage to the eyes.
PRECAUTIONS TO PREVENT OCULAR DISORDERS DUE TO COVID-19:
In order to prevent the development of ocular symptoms in children after covid-19, the doctors and parents advise the children to take certain precautions. These include:
- Protect your eyes well while going to public places. Just like you protect your nose and mouth with a mask from being infected by the virus, similarly use goggles or shades to cover your eyes if at all you sense the onset of any of the ocular symptoms like redness or itching in your eyes.
- Do not rub your eyes with bare hands. There are chances of the virus easily getting transmitted through your eyes when you touch them with hands that might have been in contact with various other contaminated surfaces. This can cause infection in the eyes and hence ocular symptoms and further disorders might develop.
- Wash your hands with sanitizer at regular intervals. This will prevent the traces of the virus from staying in touch with your skin for too long.
The best way to treat your eyes is to visit your eye care professional and get your eyes checked regularly. He will be able to assess the best method of treatment for your eye ailment.
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