For several months, Omicron, a variant of COVID-19, has been making headlines. The Omicron virus is disrupting our daily lives all around the globe—and some people are wondering if the Omicron variant can affect the eyes. At IRIS, we believe that safety should always come first in eye care. We consider information an essential resource as an individual and collective way to protect people. As always, we are committed to providing you with the best information on eye health.

What should you know about the Omicron variant and your eyes?

The coronavirus, which causes COVID-19 and its variant Omicron, is transmitted by droplets. Transmission occurs by direct contact with an infected patient (coughing, sneezing). It can also be transmitted by indirect contact. In this case, transmission occurs when you bring your hands to your face after touching a contaminated surface. It can be via a door handle, a light switch, a counter, a pencil, etc. Therefore, the eyes are a potential entry point for the virus and other viruses that come back each year.

Avoid rubbing your eyes or handling your eyelids unnecessarily. Given the Omicron variant, even if your eyes are itchy, you should not touch your face. If you must touch your face, wash your hands thoroughly. Scrub them for at least 20 seconds with soap before and after touching your eyes or around them.

If your eye is itchy, use artificial tears to moisturize the surface. Then use a clean, cold washcloth to soothe the itch. The use of eye drops has the benefit of facilitating the healing of the eye surface when localized irritation begins.

Contact lenses can be worn safely if you have proper hygiene. If the contact lens wearer develops symptoms or encounters infected people, it is best to wear eyeglasses as they limit hand-to-eye contact.

Good hand hygiene is the best way to avoid catching the Omicron variant and to protect your eyes in general.

Can the Omicron variant cause eye disease?

For 1-3% of COVID-19 patients studied during the outbreak in China, moderate viral Conjunctivitis was reported. The Omicron variant can therefore cause eyes to tear up. People with the virus suffer from pink, watery, uncomfortable eyes. Conjunctivitis is not dangerous to your vision. It can be treated with time, artificial tears and cold compresses.

Note that tears could theoretically contain a viral load and become a source of contagion.
However, the risk appears to be low so far. The most recent studies on North American patients did not find any viral load in tears—even in patients with the Omicron variant and red eyes.

The Omicron variant is not dangerous for your vision. The symptoms of the Omicron variant do not affect your eyes but be careful just the same. Are you worried about your eye health? If you have any symptoms you are concerned about and would like to discuss with a professional, contact us. Our clinics have emergency management protocols, and we will be happy to help you.