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Could an Eye Exam Diagnose Long COVID?

  • Category: Coronavirus
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Baton Rouge General
Could an Eye Exam Diagnose Long COVID?

It didn’t even have a name yet in the earlier months of the pandemic, but what medical experts now call “long COVID” describes a range of ongoing health problems weeks or even months after recovering from a COVID-19 infection. The symptoms of long COVID can include coughing, tiredness, headache, loss of taste or smell, numbness, muscle pain, memory loss or difficulty focusing, tight chest, or feeling breathless.

Now that Louisiana is in its fourth wave, with more people getting sick with COVID-19 than ever before, people are thinking again about the long-term effects that COVID-19 can have on the body’s internal organs. Researchers continue to study the “why” behind long COVID, and a pilot study is under way in the UK for a simple blood test that could officially diagnose it.

In another new study, researchers have identified a link between changes to a person’s eyes -- specifically the cornea -- and the likelihood of having long COVID. Scientists found that nerve damage and an increased immune cell count in a person’s cornea are both tied to long COVID.

Scientists use a process called corneal confocal microscopy (CCM) to analyze the cornea and identify the levels of nerve fiber damage, as well as to look at the levels of dendritic cells, a type of immune cell in the cornea. These changes in the eye may be a way of identifying the impact of the virus and are most evident in those experiencing loss of taste and smell, headaches, dizziness and numbness. Scientists already use the non-invasive CCM laser to identify a broad range of diseases, such as nerve damage from fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and diabetes.

Researchers believe that one day these simple tests could help identify whether a person has long COVID and start a person’s path to recovery with the appropriate rehabilitative care.