Spring Catarrh or Vernal Conjunctivitis is pretty common during late February and March every year in this part of the country ! Warmer than January and early February , the air is laden with pollens. The additional dryness due to changing humidity in the atmosphere triggers release of inflammatory factors! Touching the eyes for a bit of grittiness transfers these allergens in the eyes and itching , rubbing and finally sore , red watery eyes develop soon .
Sometimes earlier experience prompts taking precautions of using mast cell stabilizers as eye drops way ahead of the season OR anti allergy tablets .Others fill our clinics with red , sore , watery, itchy eyes. this type of eyes are usually common in Children.
The temperature variation also bring some viral diseases affecting the body including eyes. So similar features alike allergic conjunctivitis with occasional keratitis is also seen during these times of weather change. The Symptoms being same we always needed to check the cornea ( transparent part of eye ) for affection .
As the lockdown stepped in on 22nd march 2020 it was the season of spring . Obviously we were seeing a lot of red eyes like earlier years ! But there was an extra burden of Pandemic this time. The sneaky virus also mimics similar features . Few in fact had the disease start from the eye, neglecting as” summer allergy “.
So the clinics were alarmed and most of us developed a RED EYE CLINIC separately. These red eyed patients were distanced from normal ones, cared separately with all safety measures and immediate sanitization followed.
COVID-19 does bring red eyes , but the extent I think is yet to be established . From mild to severe red eyes have been seen , treated as allergic with secondary bacterial infections .Most cured , the ones testing positive for COVID -19 usually never turned up, some were kind to inform to thank that we were first to alert them .
But the job of screening them from hundred other causes of red eyes was a real challenge for the Ophthalmologist. Hunting from a battery of other causes (, an acute glaucoma, a simple bacterial conjunctivitis in early stage , acutely uveitic eye, vernal conjunctivitis so on and so forth) , a slit lamp examination was must for closed viewing . Giving up distancing during such examination , we braved the pandemic smartly! Funnily our clinics filled with red eyed patients throughout the year of 2020 and till now in 2021 relatively more and were not seasonal this time!
In reality red eye, itchy eyes as a primary or only symptom of Covid -19 is rare. And with proper triage by history of associated fever, flu, malaise is usually associated, preceding or following ocular features. But apprehension and ignorance sometimes prevent patients from revealing the systemic symptoms which poses extra risk on them as well as others.
Treatment given:

I have always advised anti inlammatory and anti allergic oral tablets for all my severely itchy eyes during the pandemic of COVID -19.Lots of Lubricating eye drops, a short course of topical antibiotics to prevent secondary infection with some topical antiallergics like Alcaptadine/ Olopatadine is more than enough where cornea is not affected. In case of cornea affection or anterior uveitis the treatment is more vigorous with antivirals or dilator drops and other drugs !
It is equally important that the DANGER ALARM must ring whenever there is a red eye during these pandemic times as it may herald the beginning of a dreadful disease!

To summarize,Itchy watery sore eyes , or red eyes are not always eyes affected by the deadly Virus. They maybe due to hundred of other causes. Better to consult at a clinic even if it looks like ” Summer Allergy” Lets us be alert ! And also revealing other systemic features like fever, sore throat, malaise, if at all there, at the RED EYE CLINIC might make life easier for the patient . It is known fact now that the disease of COVID -19 can be limited with early intervention and treatment.

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