Doctors point to a rising incidence in retinal vascular occlusions this year; patients also report sudden onset of double vision
Ophthalmologists have been seeing more patients with complaints of eyesight loss this year, and doctors suspect COVID-19 may have a role to play.
Doctors are relying on literature from other countries to confirm their diagnosis and suspicions. The retina is a thin layer of tissue at the back of the inside of the eye which receives light from the lens and sends it as neural signals to the brain through the optic nerve. When blood supply to the eye is hindered, the retina cannot function.
Drooping of eyelids
Mohan Rajan of Rajan Eye Care Hospital said he was seeing patients with loss of vision or double vision. “Occlusions of the retinal blood vessels, following COVID-19 infection, have been reported. This is akin to a heart attack to a cardiologist and a stroke to a neurologist,” he said.
“Arteries and veins of the retina are exposed to the same pathological processes, and this affects ocular circulation as well. Patients have also reported a sudden onset of double vision and drooping of eyelids following COVID-19, due to paralysis of the nerves of the eye,” he said.
Priya Sivakumar, neuro-ophthalmologist, Aravind Eye Care Hospital, Puducherry, said there had been an increase in the number of patients coming with loss of vision. Since initially testing for COVID-19 was not easily accessible, these patients were treated with steriods.
“We could not test the patients for COVID-19 but suspected it as a cause because of the change in trend between last year and the current. Last year, we treated 20 patients in whom both eyes were affected.This year, from March to October, we have seen around 40 patients,” she said. In her experience, the patients recovered when treated early.
Tendency to form clots
Rajiv Raman, senior retina consultant, department of vitreo-retina, Sankara Nethralaya, said people recovering from COVID-19 had a tendency to form clots, which were treated using blood thinners. Occlusion (clot) in the blood vessel can occur in arteries and veins. If it occurs in an artery in the eye, the first six hours are the golden hours within which vision can be restored in some cases. In case of a vein occlusion, vision can be improved, to an extent, with treatment, but it might not return to normal, he said.
Dr. Rajiv said the hospital had not analysed its data. “But in general, we are seeing more retinal vascular occlusions now. The occlusions could also be due to cardiovascular disease, diabetes or hypertension. Sankara Nethralaya, being a tertiary care centre, has been seeing many vivid recovered patients from across the country now,” he added.
There seems to be more incidence of retinal vascular occlusions. There is emerging literature evidence supporting this fact.
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