In a cross-sectional, observational study all consecutive patients with confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis at the central referral center of these patients in northeast of Iran were included. Ocular examinations (external and slit) were randomly performed for the patients who were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and six COVID wards of the hospital. Moreover, Chart records and serum chemistry results were collected.
A total of 142 patients with the mean age of 62.6 ± 15 years (range 23-96 years) and almost equal gender distribution (male N = 77, 54.2%) were included in the study. During the initial external examination by the ophthalmologist, 44 (31%) patients were found to have conjunctival hyperemia and 22 (15.5%) patients had chemosis. Consecutive slit examination showed 41 (28.9%) conjunctival hyperemia, 22 (15.5%) chemosis, 11 (7.7%) cataract, and 9 (6.3%) diabetic retinopathy. The patients with at least one ocular manifestation had significantly higher blood urea levels at the time of admission compared to those with no obvious ocular involvement (median 41.5, IQR 28-66.3 vs. median 33, IQR 23.8-51.8, P = .023). Moreover, a significant difference was observed in the total white blood cell count, lymphocyte percent, neutrophil count, Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR), and blood urea level between patients with positive and negative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) for SARS-CoV-2 virus. None of the patients reported ocular symptoms prior to systemic involvement. The proportion of patients with at least one ocular manifestation was significantly higher in those admitted in the ICU compared to the non-ICU wards. wards. While conjunctival hyperemia was the most prevalent ocular finding in all patients, chemosis was the most common ocular manifestation in ICU admitted patients.