The Relationship Between COVID-19 and Rare Eye Diseases
The unexpected appearance of COVID-19 has led to several discoveries and innovations in the medical field. Earlier this year, Amilia Schrier, MD, reported a study in New York, addressing a possible link between endophthalmitis and the coronavirus.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, endophthalmitis comes from the infection of fluid or tissues in the eye. It is incredibly rare and severe, and can cause blindness if not reversed. Different types of endophthalmitis can result from a series of causes, including bacteria, fungi, or blood infections.
Back in January, Schrier reported three cases back in New York, a well-known location that was heavily concentrated with COVID-19 cases back when the pandemic took off. In the span of two months, these three patients each over the age of 60, were admitted into the Northwell Health Hospital due to positive testing for COVID-19. All three patients were observed to develop severe vision loss, due to keratitis. Keratitis is the inflammation of the cornea, which can also be caused by bacteria, fungi, or even viruses. Each patient was reported to have a different cause for their keratitis. Unfortunately, all three were eventually diagnosed with endophthalmitis, and they had no choice but to seek aggressive treatment.
Though it seems like COVID-19 has hardly any impact on this situation, the likelihood of getting keratitis to endophthalmitis is incredibly rare: “A 2012 study reported only 27 out of 9,934 eyes in a 15-year period experienced endophthalmitis caused by keratitis” (Schrier, 2021). Additionally, the odds of there being three matching cases in the span of two months is also important to consider: “Seeing three of these cases in a 2-month period with COVID-19 positivity suggests that there may be an association between COVID-19 infection and severe eye disease” (Schrier, 2021).
COVID-19 does not cause endophthalmitis. However, there may be a relationship between the two diseases. Another researcher, Sonal S. Tuli suggests that there must have been another major factor, such as a weak immune system, that increased the likelihood of the patients having such severe eye infections. Another possible reason behind these findings is the high number of cases in New York, and that all three cases were simply due to chance or coincidence.
Schrier, along with other researchers, hopes to investigate more anti-infectious treatments in order to prevent diseases like endophthalmitis from impacting others in the future.