Nearly two years into the pandemic, doctors are still struggling to diagnose “Long COVID”. This is where patients continue to struggle with COVID symptoms after the acute phase of the infection, which is usually approximately four weeks. These symptoms can include neurological issues such as severe headaches, numbness, dizziness, and a loss of taste and smell. Doctors are searching for an effective diagnosis.
1 in 10 people diagnosed with COVID become Long-Haulers
Diagnosing those who will suffer from Long COVID may be accomplished by taking a close look at their eyes. According to a recent study, an increase in key immune cells, as well as nerve fiber loss on the surface of the eye, could be a way of identifying the long-term impact of the virus.
Scientists gathered three test groups: 1) people who have not had COVID, 2) people who have had COVID but have recovered. And 3) people who have had COVID and are still symptomatic more than four weeks after infection. Using confocal microscopy (CCM) researchers then scanned the corneas of all of the participants, looking for small nerve fiber damage and the density of “dendritic cells”. These cells capture and present antigens from invading organisms, so are integral in the body’s primary immune system response.
The scan results could be a breakthrough. Patients with neurological symptoms after the acute four-week phase had more corneal nerve fiber damage and loss. They produced higher numbers of dendritic cells than those who haven’t been infected. The group without neurological symptoms had comparable numbers of corneal nerve fibers as those who hadn’t been infected. However, they had higher numbers of dendritic cells.
This evidence indicates that long COVID symptoms have a strong correlation with corneal nerve fiber loss.
The eyes can reveal many issues beyond your vision. Even during a routine annual eye exam, your eye doctor is able to detect early warning signs of diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and even cancer. Make sure you’re taking care of your eyes – and your overall health – with a Vision Plan from ASBA. Sign up today.