2023: Covid Pink Eye caused by Arcturus & Treatment

The rapid spread of a novel strain of the COVID virus has garnered global attention due to its unusual manifestation of conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye.”

Arcturus, also known as XBB.1.16, is a strain that belongs to the Omicron subvariant. It was initially discovered in India and has rapidly spread to numerous countries. In the United States, it accounts for over 12.5 percent of cases, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The World Health Organization has classified Arcturus as a “variant of interest” due to its genetic modifications that could impact its behavior and give it an edge over other circulating variants.

Arcturus has been causing red and irritated eyes, particularly in children, wherever it spreads. Although bloodshot eyes may appear concerning, viral conjunctivitis is typically not a cause for concern on its own, and there is no evidence that Arcturus is more hazardous than earlier strains. However, being aware that COVID infection can lead to pink eye can aid in early detection and prevent further spread.

Conjunctivitis, commonly referred to as pink eye, is the inflammation of the conjunctiva. The conjunctiva is a delicate, clear mucous membrane that covers the white area of the eye. This inflammation results in the dilation of blood vessels, leading to the characteristic pink or red appearance of the eyes.

Conjunctivitis may also cause watery eyes and sensitivity to brightness due to an inflamed cornea that scatters light like frosted glass.

Approximately six million individuals in the United States seek medical attention annually for conjunctivitis, frequently due to viral infections. Adenovirus is the primary cause of viral conjunctivitis, accounting for 90% of cases. Pink eye can also be caused by influenza, herpesviruses, and other viruses, as well as bacterial infections, chemical exposure, allergies, compromised contact lenses, and physical trauma.

What is causing the occurrence of red eyes due to Arcturus?

Currently no official analysis to determine the prevalence of conjunctivitis resulting from the latest variant. However, experts are speculating that pink eye is quite common, particularly in children under the age of 12, based on early evidence from India. It is worth noting that pink eye is typically not the only symptom present in affected children, as they may also experience a fever, sore throat, cough, or other COVID-related symptoms.

According to experts, the variations of the virus that cause more eye problems are likely due to mutations in its spike protein that increase its ability to attach to cells in the eye. Similar to the nose, lungs, and upper airways, ACE2 receptors, which serve as binding sites for SARS-CoV-2, are present in cells located in the conjunctiva and other areas of the eye.

During the pandemic, it was discovered through studies that the Beta variant had a higher affinity for receptors in the eyes, making it more infectious to conjunctival cells than the previous Alpha strain. As a result, infected individuals experienced more eye inflammation due to a higher concentration of the virus. Arcturus is not the first variant to exhibit this characteristic.

When a variant has a higher affinity for a receptor, it can facilitate a greater number of virus particles infecting cells, resulting in a more significant immune response. The spike protein of the COVID-19 virus attaches to the receptor, initiating a cascade of events that leads to inflammation.

COVID infection can originate in the eyes and spread throughout the body, or it can arise elsewhere, with systemic alterations affecting the eyes.

Developed pink eye? Here’s what to do..

There is no need to panic as Arcturus does not seem to have a higher likelihood of causing hospitalization, serious complications or death compared to other variants. Viral conjunctivitis usually lasts for about a week and can resolve on its own without any intervention.

To determine if a virus is causing the infection, you can observe certain clues. Viral pink eye can suddenly cause red and watery eyes with excessive tearing. On the other hand, bacterial infections often result in thick and sticky discharge, while allergies can lead to severe itching of the eyes and eyelids. However, some symptoms may overlap despite the cause.

If you experience red eyes alongside a fever or other COVID-like symptoms, which are common in Arcturus cases, it may be wise to take a COVID test. It is suggested that in today’s COVID era, if you have a viral conjunctivitis infection, getting tested for COVID would not be unreasonable.

If you experience pain and severe light sensitivity, it may indicate eye damage that requires medical attention to assess potential impacts on your vision. Additionally, thick yellow discharge could be a sign of a bacterial infection that may require antibiotics. Blurry vision is also a warning sign of corneal inflammation that could benefit from steroid drops.

If your symptoms do not improve or worsen after a few days, it is recommended to consult a doctor. An ophthalmologist can examine enlarged glands, called follicles, unique to viral infections, as well as other signs that indicate the cause of pink eye, using a magnifying scope.

Is there any way to alleviate the discomfort caused by pink eye due to COVID?

According to experts, drugstores offer artificial tears that can provide comfort. Additionally, using cold compresses can be beneficial. It is important to refrain from rubbing your eyes, as doing so can result in damage, secondary infections, and transmission to others.

If you are experiencing red eyes due to COVID, it is likely that the virus is present in your tears. Washing your hands frequently is highly recommended, using separate towels from others, and avoiding physical contact until the infection has subsided.

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