“Prolonged COVID-19” represents an astonishing array of debilitating symptoms that up to 30% of patients experience long after recovery from acute SARS-CoV-2 infection, including brain fog.
And it seems that many of these inconveniences are not always visible from the outside, but according to a new study, it may indeed be possible to detect “long-lasting Covid” in patients’ eyes, in the form of nerve damage that can be seen in the cornea, which is a transparent dome that forms the front surface The eye covers the iris and pupil.
Nerve damage in the cornea can be detected by a non-invasive laser technology called corneal confocal microscopy (CCM), which researchers have used to identify corneal abnormalities associated with a range of diseases, such as nerve damage from diabetes, multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia.
The team used the same technique to see if the CCM could identify corneal nerve damage and increase in dendritic cells (DC, a type of immune system cell) in prolonged Covid cases. They compared the results of 40 patients with previous infection with “Covid-19” with CCM observations of 30 healthy individuals who never had the disease.
According to the researchers, CCM can be used to help identify “long-term Covid”, with corneal examinations of a subgroup of the “Covid-19” group (patients who reported persistent neurological symptoms after recovering from the virus) showing greater damage and loss of corneal nerve fibers, with The presence of a greater number of dendritic cells, than the healthy participants.
While this is only a small study — and an observational study at the time, which cannot confirm that COVID-19 did indeed cause corneal abnormalities in these patients — the links here amount to further evidence of how MERS-CoV infection may contribute. Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 for nerve problems and neuropathy.
This may be due to possible disruptions in the healthy development of nerve fibers, resulting in an increase in dendritic cells that are called upon as part of our immune response.
“These findings are consistent with an immune and innate inflammatory process characterized by the migration and accumulation of localized cells in the central cornea in a number of inflammatory and immune-mediated conditions,” the team explains.
Patients with more severe cases of Covid-19 tend to show more corneal nerve damage, so it’s possible that the eye abnormalities shown all stem from the way the disease presents in patients, the researchers suggest.
As the team acknowledges, more research is needed with much larger groups to follow these early leads, but for now, this is yet another example of how eye health is linked to our broader health.
The researchers say: “Confocal microscopy of the cornea may have clinical utility as a rapid and objective ophthalmic test for the evaluation of patients with long-term Covid-19.”
The results were published in the magazine British Ophthalmology.
Source: Science Alert