Severe COVID-19 infection may also be linked to eye damage, study suggests

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(CNN) - A new study suggests that COVID-19 may cause damage to the eyes in critically ill patients.

For the study, published in the journal Radiology, researchers reviewed magnetic resonance imaging of 129 patients presenting with severe COVID-19 in France between March 4 and May 1.

Advanced imaging tests showed nine of the 129 (7%) patients had one or several irregularities at the back of the eyes. The irregularities could indicate possible damage or blockage of blood vessels, small bleeds in the eye or disruption of nerve fibers.

All but one of the affected patients had damage in both eyes.

But due to the lack of “systematic ophthalmological examination” of patients in the ICU, researchers were limited by data and unable to correlate their radiographic findings with vision changes.

Researchers think these findings may be caused by widespread blood clotting in small vessels and disruption of an enzyme that protects the eye from damage. They also suggest the finding could be linked to increased pressure in the eyes caused by positioning ICU patients face-down (prone position) when on mechanical ventilation.

Further research is needed to determine exactly what is causing damage to the eye in these critically ill patients and how this damage changes with time, the researchers said.

But the current study suggests that doctors should consider screening patients with severe COVID-19 for ocular problems.

“Our data support the need for screening and follow-up of patients to provide appropriate treatment and improve the management of potentially severe ophiological manifestations,” the authors said.

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