It is true that COVID-19 can affect your eyes. Luckily, we’re here to outline the current research for you to make sure that you’re fully informed on how COVID-19 may impact your vision.

COVID-19 symptoms eyes

Sore eyes covid

There is some scientific evidence to suggest that sore, painful eyes are a symptom of coronavirus. Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University found that of the 83 COVID-positive patients tested, 16% reported experiencing sore eyes.¹ Most patients experienced these ocular symptoms within 2 weeks of other more common COVID-19 symptoms, and most said that they lasted for less than 2 weeks.¹ So, if you’re experiencing eye soreness without other COVID symptoms, it’s likely that the pain would be related to something else. However, all of these symptoms can also be caused by an eye condition called conjunctivitis.

Itchy eyes covid

In the same study, researchers from Anglia Ruskin University also found that, of the 83 COVID-positive patients tested, 17% experienced itchy eyes.¹ As with sore eyes, most patients experienced itchy eyes within 2 weeks of other more common COVID-19 symptoms, so, if you’re experiencing this without any other COVID-19 symptoms, and it’s likely related to something else.¹ 

Sometimes, COVID-19 symptoms such as itchy eyes can be difficult to tell apart from less serious conditions including conjunctivitis, seasonal allergies or hay fever. Find out more about hay fever symptoms here.

Blurry eyes covid

From current research on the virus, and sources such as the World Health Organisation, COVID-19 does not appear to cause blurry vision — at least not directly. While coronavirus can affect your eyesight in some ways, blurred vision is not a direct symptom of COVID.

If you are experiencing blurry vision following a positive COVID-19 test, it is most likely not a direct result of COVID, but a result of another coronavirus symptom, like conjunctivitis or fatigue, or a completely separate cause altogether.

Light sensitivity covid

Researchers have also found a link between a symptom of conjunctivitis called photophobia (or light sensitivity) and coronavirus. A study from Anglia Ruskin University found that 18% of the COVID-positive patients tested experienced photophobia, or sensitivity to light.¹ As with other ocular symptoms, most patients experienced photophobia alongside other more common COVID signs (such as a dry, persistent cough), with photophobia symptoms easing within 2 weeks.

Some experts believe that these symptoms may be more common with newer variants of coronavirus in particular (such as the B.1.1.7 strain), although this has not yet been proven with research, so further studies are needed. You can find more information on photophobia here

Conjunctivitis and covid

Can coronavirus be contracted through the eyes?

The conjunctiva is a mucous membrane which covers the surface of the eye. If viral particles, such as the coronavirus, come into contact with it (for example, from a sneeze, cough or touching your eyes with unclean hands), this could result in an individual becoming infected.

This is because coronavirus latches onto ACE-2 receptors on the cells of the conjunctiva, similar receptors are found in the respiratory tract and lungs. These cell surface receptors act as a gateway into cells themselves, leading to the virus entering the body.³

Is conjunctivitis a symptom of COVID-19?

Coronavirus can cause conjunctivitis, however, it’s quite rare — occurring in about 1-3 % of affected people and is on the less frequent symptoms list by WHO. Conjunctivitis associated with COVID-19 tends to occur in the later stages of the disease, alongside more common symptoms such as a continuous cough and fever.

One study on children hospitalised with COVID-19 in China found that those with common COVID-19 symptoms (such as a cough) were also more likely to develop ocular symptoms of conjunctivitis⁴.

Hay fever symptoms vs COVID

Hay fever is a type of allergic conjunctivitis that occurs as a reaction to pollen. Common symptoms of hay fever include a runny or blocked nose, sneezing and red, itchy, bloodshot eyes — some of which overlap with symptoms of coronavirus making it difficult for some people to differentiate between the two during allergy season. 

One easy way to tell is that for most people who have hay fever, symptoms will be the same as in previous years. If you have hay fever and asthma, your symptoms (breathlessness or wheezing) might also worsen during high-pollen months, which can be easy to confuse with some signs of coronavirus. In this case, it’s important to speak to your GP for further guidance.

There are a few symptoms that can help you tell the difference between hayfever and coronavirus:

  • Symptoms of runny, itchy nose and sneezing which are typical of hay fever are not typical of coronavirus
  • Allergy symptoms do not typically include fever, sore throat, or achiness, which have been reported in patients with coronavirus
  • Allergy symptoms typically include itchiness (itchy eyes, itchy ears, itchy nose, itchy throat), which are not common signs of coronavirus
  • Allergy symptoms usually change depending on your environment — worsening when outside and easing at night
  • Hay fever symptoms should ease with antihistamines and, if you have been prescribed them, nasal sprays. 

We recommend that you treat hay fever proactively to minimise your symptoms, which can reduce the need to itch your face as well as prevent the unintentional spread of coronavirus by sneezing.

Eye problems after COVID?

A significant number of people who have contracted coronavirus suffer prolonged symptoms, known as ‘long COVID’. In a study of long COVID patients, blurred vision, dry eyes, eye pain and other vision problems were noted by participants as some of their ongoing symptoms.2 However, more research is needed in this area to officially link specific eye conditions with the development of COVID-19.

Are glasses wearers less likely to get COVID?

A 2022 study of 19,166 participants found that there were 15% lower odds of infection for those who reported always using glasses for general use compared to those who never wear glasses.⁵ That said, this represented only a moderate reduction in the risk of infection.⁵ The surface of the eye (conjunctiva) could still be susceptible to droplets from an infected person, so it’s best to continue to follow applicable government guidelines

What do I do if I think COVID is impacting my vision?

If you have or think you may have contracted COVID-19, you should follow local government guidelines. The Government recommends taking an at-home test or PCR test, following self-isolation guidance.

Noticed a recent change in your eyesight?

If you have noticed a recent change in your vision, whether covid-related or not, it’s best to book an appointment with your optician to have your eyes checked. Please don’t come in if you have COVID. For some more ear and eyecare advice relating to coronavirus, visit our COVID-19 Care Hub.


  1. Shahina Pardhan, Megan Vaughan, Jufen Zhang, Lee Smith, Havovi Chichger (2020). Sore eyes as the most significant ocular symptom experienced by people with COVID-19: a comparison between pre-COVID-19 and during COVID-19 states [online]. Available at: [Accessed Jan 2021]
  2. Hannah Davis, Gina Asaaf, Lisa McCorkell, Hannah Wei, Ryan Low, Yochai Re’em et al. Characterizing long COVID in an international cohort: 7 months of symptoms and their impact, [online] EClinicalMedicine 38:101019 (2021), pp.1-19. Available at: [Accessed 09/2021].
  3. Hannah Davis, Gina Asaaf, Lisa McCorkell, Hannah Wei, Ryan Low, Yochai Re’em et al. Characterizing long COVID in an international cohort: 7 months of symptoms and their impact, [online] EClinicalMedicine 38:101019 (2021), pp.1-19. Available at: [Accessed 09/2021].
  4. Ma N, Li P, Wang X, et al. (2020) Ocular Manifestations and Clinical Characteristics of Children With Laboratory-Confirmed COVID-19 in Wuhan, China. JAMA [online]. Available at: [accessed 18/09/2020]
  5. Navaratnam, A. et al. (2022) "Glasses and risk of COVID-19 transmission - analysis of the Virus Watch Community Cohort study". medRxiv. doi: 10.1101/2022.03.29.22272997. [accessed: 23/12/2022]