New Concern: COVID-19 could affect your eyesight

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As the omicron variant begins to fade, now comes word that COVID-19 could affect your vision.

That is especially important because an estimated 75,000 people in Washington have sight-stealing glaucoma. And, according to one doctor, half of them do not know it.

Glaucoma is called the “sneak thief of sight” for a reason. If left untreated, it can cause you to go blind, hardly knowing what hit you.

COVID-19 has long been known to make a body very sick. It turns out, it could make your eyes sick, too.

“If I hadn’t come to Dr. Whitehead, I would be blind now.”

That is the grim news Cathleen Kallmeyer got when she came to Evergreen Eye Care in the Swedish Hospital complex two years ago. She was told she would likely go blind in six short months.

“It stops you in your tracks,” Kallmeyer said.

“Glaucoma is a group of diseases where the pressure inside the eye is too high,” Whitehead said. “And that high pressure damages the nerve in the back of the eye.”

He says thousands of Washingtonians of all races and genders already have glaucoma and not all of them know it.

Now there is growing concern that COVID-19 could damage the eyes of those who get sick.

“The body’s immune response is so robust to this new pathogen, there are protein markers inside of your body that the body can become confused and think that that might be COVID-19,” Whitehead said.

He said if the body gets confused, “it might attack parts of the eye.

“Usually, it’ll cause a decrease in vision,” he said. “It could then cause a secondary cause of glaucoma, can also cause things like cataracts, retinal swelling. All kinds of problems inside the eye.”

Kallmeyer said that after several surgeries, Whitehead helped save her vision.

“It really was a miracle for me,” she said.

Now that she knows about the potential effects of COVID-19 on eyesight, she wants to help spread the word.

“Oh I want them all to know,” Kallmeyer said. “I don’t want anybody to have go through that kind of fright.”

Whitehead recommends that everyone gets their eyes checked, especially those over 60.

After all, glaucoma produces no symptoms. The earlier it is caught, the less vision is lost.