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Your Healthy Family: Coronavirus and its ties to pink eye

Posted at 6:38 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 22:13:35-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — In this Your Healthy Family, we're talking about the connection between pink eye and COVID-19 with two local experts. First, it's important to understand that if you get pink eye during this pandemic, it’s not an indication on its own that you may have coronavirus.

Dr. John Burroughs, M.D. with Springs Aesthetics, is board-certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology, and is a Fellow of the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Burroughs says,

“Under most circumstances if you have pink eye, does that mean you have coronavirus? No, but the suspicion when you get other findings that are much more rare, like the loss of smell or pink eye with COVID-19, it's usually considered to be when you have a higher viral load, or you have more of the virus in your system.”

Dr. Burroughs says pink eye can have a viral component. “Pink eye conjunctivitis is a condition that when it's infectious is usually due to viruses. The good part about that is that it's self-limited and goes away on its own, and it doesn't really need treatment. Viral pink eye can also, under rare circumstances, have upper respiratory symptoms, such as a sore throat which might alarm people right now. Other causes of infectious pink eye are bacterial that do need treatment.”

Dr. Matt MacDonald, D.O. is with Monument Vision Clinic. Dr. MacDonald says, “We have known for a long time that pink eye is a virus, so it literally could be any virus that causes it. I think that's good to know right now so that if people get pink eye during this [pandemic] they aren't really, really scared.”

Pink eye is something Dr. MacDonald also treats frequently and says even during the “stay in place” order from Colorado Governor Jared Polis, if you do develop what you think might be pink eye you don’t need to suffer through it. “Please call an eye doctor. A lot of eye doctors are closed right now for routine eye care, but we're still performing emergency eye care and pink eye would fall under one of those things. The governor signed statewide support of telehealth so we're doing a lot of things through FaceTime, Zoom, or anything to try to help take care of the community.”

Dr. MacDonald explains, “Obviously if you're also showing other symptoms, if you’re having respiratory problems and some of the other symptoms of COVID-19, then you should get checked out by a medical doctor.”

Dr. Burroughs says if you find yourself in a situation with a serious eye emergency, or what looks like pink eye, along with other serious symptoms like fever, aches and trouble breathing, go be seen. “During this pandemic, you actually need to go to a hospital based emergency room if you have any of the symptoms of Coronavirus, or have been exposed to anyone else who has traveled from other areas with a high-risk, like New York. With those added eye problems at the emergency room there will be an on-call ophthalmologist that can see you in person and if you're having those other symptoms you could be tested and treated in a safe environment.”