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Is Dry Eyes a New Symptom of COVID-19? | MyVision.org

Dry eye is not a common symptom of COVID-19. But some people experience eye dryness with COVID or dry eye disease following a COVID-19 infection.

COVID-19 has affected people from all walks of life and from all corners of the globe since its outbreak in early 2020. Although some individuals do not exhibit any symptoms while carrying this infectious disease, many experience symptoms and side effects after infection.

COVID-19 is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. Most individuals who become infected with this virus only experience mild to moderate symptoms, while others can exhibit extremely severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention. 

Is Dry Eye a Symptom of COVID-19?

COVID-19 can affect your eyes, but dry eye is not considered a common symptom. Dry eye alone (without flu-like symptoms) does not serve as an indication that you have COVID-19.

A study in The Ocular Surface found an association between COVID-19 infection and dry eyes.

Dry eye is a common condition. It can come as the result of underlying eye problems or health issues, but it can also develop due to living in certain climates, working in certain environments, and adopting certain lifestyle habits. For instance, if you work outdoors in dusty or windy conditions, or you work on a computer for long periods, you are more likely to develop dry eyes. 

Dry eye can also be an indication of other underlying medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis. 

Additional medical conditions associated with dry eye include the following:

  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Allergic eye disease
  • Lupus
  • Scleroderma
  • Graft vs. host disease
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Certain thyroid disorders 
  • Vitamin A deficiency

The Link Between COVID-19 & Dry Eye Syndrome

Although dry eye is not necessarily an indicator of COVID-19 alone, another study conducted in 2021 suggests a link between COVID-19 and dry eye. This study provides data showing that out of every 10 individuals studied, at least one reported experiencing dry eye symptoms. 

This same study suggests that dry eyes, or at the very least having the feeling of a foreign object in the eye, were actually the most common symptoms associated with vision and eyesight. Around 16% of the individuals studied had developed eye symptoms – 1.7% of which tested positive for COVID-19. 

Even though we now have a sizable amount of data to draw upon since the onset of COVID-19, the underlying reason behind COVID-19 contributing to dry eyes among a relatively small percentage of individuals still remains unclear. 

Some researchers and medical professionals believe that the body’s response to inflammation has to do with the immune system’s response to infection. 

Pandemic Lifestyle Habits Associated With Dry Eye

Certain lifestyle habits that many of us adopted during the pandemic may have also contributed to the link between COVID-19 and dry eye. 

For instance, many of us began working from home and taking meetings via online tools, such as Zoom. Staring at a computer screen is a common trigger for dry eyes and dry eye syndrome. 

Wearing masks and other facial coverings may also contribute to dry eyes. One reason for this is that typical masks sit loosely against the face. As such, exhaled air has a propensity to travel upward, accelerating tear evaporation and causing the eye to lose required moisture.

Other Eye-Related Symptoms From COVID-19

Additional COVID eye symptoms are closely related to conjunctivitis, which can result from being exposed to this virus. Eye symptoms related to COVID-19 include the following:

  • Teary or watery eyes 
  • Eye redness 
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Eye irritation 
  • Eye pain
  • Itching on or around the eyes
  • Discharge coming from the eyes

When to See a Doctor for Dry Eyes

Eye pain and discomfort of any sort should be taken very seriously. These issues can lead to additional eye problems as well as irreparable vision damage.

If your symptoms are mild, certain lifestyle adjustments — such as limiting screen time, avoiding UV rays, and avoiding dusty or windy conditions — may reduce or even eliminate your dry eye symptoms. Acupuncture has also been shown to help with dry eye syndrome, even among patients with COVID-19. 

If taking such measures proves ineffective or if your symptoms become aggravated, it’s a good idea to see an eye doctor or other medical professional as soon as you can. If you’re experiencing eye pain, discomfort, altered or compromised vision, or any other symptoms associated with dry eye, consult with an eye care professional as soon as possible.

If your dry eye symptoms are accompanied by known COVID-19 symptoms, contact an experienced medical professional. Such symptoms may be an indication of viral infection or a serious underlying medical condition. 


Ocular Manifestations of COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. (January 2021). Journal of Ophthalmic & Vision Research

Can COVID Affect Your Eyes? 6 ‘COVID Eye’ Symptoms and When to See a Doctor. (November 2022). Nebraska Medicine.

Acupuncture for Dry Eye Disease After Recovery From COVID-19: A Protocol for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. (October 2022). Medicine.

Higher Risk of Dry Eye Disease Linked to Post-COVID-19 Patients. (April 2022). Optometry Times.

Small Fiber Neuropathy in the Cornea of Covid-19 Patients Associated With the Generation of Ocular Surface Disease. (January 2022). The Ocular Surface.

Study Finds Association Between COVID-19 and Dry Eye Symptoms. (January 2022). AJMC.

A Missing Link Between SARS‐CoV‐2 and the Eye?: ACE2 Expression on the Ocular Surface. (January 2021). Journal of Medical Virology.

Mask-Associated Dry Eye Disease and Dry Eye Due to Prolonged Screen Time: Are We Heading Towards a New Dry Eye Epidemic During the COVID-19 Era? (February 2021). Indian Journal of Ophthalmology.
Investigating the Impact of COVID-19 Infection on Dry Eye Parameters. (April 2023). Diagnostics.

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