Doctors seeing increased eye issues since COVID began, what they are, how to prevent them


LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – It’s an unexpected side-effect of the pandemic. Doctors said they’ve seen an exponential increase in eye issues since COVID-19 began.

Two ophthalmologists at The Eye Institute of West Florida said they’ve seen increased issues that are exasperated from increased screen time and being in the air-conditioning, something many of us have done since the pandemic began.

“Dry Eye is a common disorder among older people particularly,” said John Horst who lives in the Tampa Bay Area and has struggled with it for years.

“Dry Eye Syndrome was affecting my vision and we then began to try different strategies to mitigate that issue,” Horst said.

He said The Eye Institute of West Florida has been able to help him.

Doctors there say many more cases like his have popped up since COVID-19 began.

“We’ve noticed an increase of dry eye, styes along the eyelid margin, and Blepharitis, a common inflammation around the eyelids and eyelashes,” said Dr. Neel Desai, M.D. at The Eye Institute of West Florida.

“It doesn’t happen right away,” said Dr. Brandon Clair, M.D. with The Eye Institute of West Florida. “People wear more masks, as the other doctor alluded to there’s more rubbing, things like people wear masks improperly and it vents the air over the ocular surface, all things that can exacerbate this problem,” Dr. Clair said.

The ophthalmologists said it’s not the virus causing eye issues, it’s the mask and while any mask is better than no mask, both doctors agree one that fits well will help prevent eye issues.

“Having a leaking mask that’s poorly fitting that allows air to leak up and across your eye surface is really leading to these problems,” Dr. Desai said.

You can try home remedies like hot compresses or eye drops, but if it gets bad don’t wait.

“If you are having those symptoms now, seek treatment early,” Dr. Desai said.

The doctors said another common issue they’ve seen is people frustrated with their glasses fogging up because of masks, so over the last few months, they’ve seen a major uptick in LASIK surgery.


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