Monkeypox: Expert warns infection can cause conjunctivitis – symptoms

While monkeypox is characterised by a telltale rash, warning signs can also appear in your eye. What’s worse, one of these symptoms could be a predecessor of vision loss. That’s why spotting it promptly is crucial.

Declared as a public health emergency by the World Health Organization, monkeypox is an infection that can be transmitted through close contact as well as cough and sneezes.

One of the key signs of this condition is a painful rash that often begins on your face.

Doctor Nisa Aslam, who is also an adviser to Golden Eye, explained that this tricky location can also lead to eye symptoms.

The doctor said: “The monkeypox rash affects the face in 95 percent of people who get the virus and hence can be present in the area around the eyes.

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“The conjunctiva (the clear tissue that covers part of the front of the eye as well as the inner eyelid) can also be affected in people with the monkeypox virus, resulting in conjunctivitis (pink eye).”

Don’t take just the expert’s word for it, the journal JAMA Ophthalmol also shared that conjunctivitis can be a symptom of the zoonotic disease.

The research paper looked at a 42-year-old man who had eye pain and experienced light sensitivity.

Eventually, the examination of his eyes revealed the condition known as pink eye, which is characterised by burning, redness and pus.


What’s worse, this eye problem could even lead to vision loss in some cases, Doctor Aslam warned.

She said: “Sometimes, the infection can extend to the cornea which can lead to further complications, and in rare cases, vision loss. Hence it is vital to treat conjunctivitis straightaway.”

Fortunately, the expert shared the key signs that can break the news of conjunctivitis.

The doctor instructed to watch out for:

  • Red eye
  • Watery eye
  • Itching and grittiness
  • Yellow or sticky eye discharge
  • Feeling something is stuck in the eye
  • Discomfort
  • Light sensitivity (occasionally)
  • Eyelids stuck together in the morning
  • Discharge on the eyelids and eyelashes.

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She added: “Watery eye is more common in cases of viral conjunctivitis and if monkeypox affects the virus, it would likely cause viral conjunctivitis in the first instance.

“However, bacterial infection can occur in which case the eyes are likely to present with sticky pus.

“One eye may be affected at first but conjunctivitis is contagious and both eyes are likely to be affected very quickly.”

Once you identify these symptoms, it’s crucial to get a prompt treatment to avoid further problems.

Doctor Aslam added: “Don’t forget the importance of good eye hygiene. Wipe away any crust from each eye using a separate, clean cotton wool pad dipped in cooled boiled water.”

The NHS advises speaking to a pharmacist about treatments for conjunctivitis; however, monkeypox patients need to self-isolate and avoid close contact with others.

According to the World Health Organisation, the infection can cause conjunctivitis in more than a fifth of people with the monkeypox.

Apart from the pink eye, light sensitivity and eyelid swelling, other more common symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • High temperature
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Backache
  • Swollen glands
  • Shivering (chills)
  • Exhaustion
  • Joint pain
  • Rash.

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