If You've Had COVID, You Need to Get Screened for This

New research says the coronavirus can damage this surprising body part.

Recovering from COVID is not an easy endeavor for everyone. The virus can cause symptoms for weeks, forcing some to struggle at home until it's over, even if hospitalization is not required. And the battle may not be over once your symptoms subside. Some patients can be stuck with secondary symptoms for months—a phenomenon known as "long COVID"—and the virus can also cause troublesome damage to various parts of your body. According to a new study, if you've had COVID, you may want to get screened for one particular health issue. Read on to find out about this surprising health concern, and for more on long COVID, Dr. Fauci Says These Are the COVID Symptoms That Don't Go Away.

If you've had COVID, you need to get screened for eye damage.

Ophthalmologist analyzing exam's results in a monitor
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French researchers reviewed the MRI scans of 129 COVID patients between March 4 and May 1 of last year, publishing their findings Feb. 16 in the journal Radiology. According to the study, they found that 7 percent of the patients had irregularities at the back of their eyes. The patients' irregularities ranged from one to several nodules, which are abnormal growths or lumps. "Our data support the need for screening and follow-up of patients to provide appropriate treatment and improve the management of potentially severe ophiological manifestations," the authors said. And for more coronavirus concerns to be aware of, If You're Over 65, You Could Be Missing This COVID Symptom, Study Says.

The researchers specifically studied severe COVID patients.

Male and female doctors discussing while standing in ICU. Healthcare workers are protective workwear. They are at hospital.
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The researchers focused on COVID patients who presented with severe forms of the virus. Out of the patients found with eye irregularities, all but one had spent time in the ICU while being treated for COVID. And all but two of the patients were placed in the "prone position," which is where a patient is laid face-down on their stomach. This position helps increase the amount of oxygen being delivered to the bottom and back of the lungs, which improves oxygen flow in COVID patients, per Medline. Unfortunately, according to the French researchers, the increased pressure this position creates in the eyes may be one explanation for resulting eye damage. And for more on severe cases of coronavirus, If You Have This in Your Blood, You May Be Safe From Severe COVID.

Researchers say the eye damage could also be the result of widespread blood clotting.

A doctor examines a vial of a blood sample in her hand.
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The prone position is just one explanation, however, as two of the patients who presented with eye irregularities were not placed in this position. Another theory presented by the researchers is that this eye damage is caused by blood clotting. According to the study, SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19, particularly targets and attaches to ACE2 receptors, which are prevalent in the eye's retina and responsible for regulating inflammation and blood damage. The virus suppresses these receptors, which in turn, "might induce the development of retinal ischemia," where blood vessels are damaged or clotted, reducing the amount oxygen and nutrients sent to the retina in order for it to properly function.

"When you have a virus going into the bloodstream, blood vessels get blocked, which causes an inflammatory response, which could be affecting the eye orbit," Claudia F.E. Kirsch, MD, chief of division for neuroradiology at Northwell Health in New York, explained to Healthline. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

These irregularities could lead to blindness if left untreated.

Ophthalmologist checking patient's eye while Covid spreads
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While researchers don't know exactly what is causing eye damage in severe COVID patients, they do know that patients need to be screened for this health issue. If left untreated, these ocular irregularities could lead to blindness. According to the study, all of the affected patients had nodules in the macular region, which is the part of the eye responsible for central vision that allows people to see clearly in front of themselves.

"The eye problems we found can be potentially very serious because they occur in the … macular region, which is the region responsible for giving us clear vision and the ability to see fine detail," Augustin Lecler, MD, the study's lead author and an associate professor at the University of Paris, told Live Science. "If persisting, it might potentially lead to severe vision loss or even blindness." And for more potential coronavirus complications, If You Have This Common Habit, Your COVID Symptoms Will Be Worse.

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