In an eye-opening revelation, Korean medical experts have brought to light some concerning risks of eye-related complications from COVID-19 and its vaccines.
Their new study, titled "Neuro-Ophthalmic Adverse Events of COVID-19 Infection and Vaccines: A Nationwide Cohort Study," was newly published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, a specialized scientific journal for eye health.
Led by Dr. Jae Yong Han and Dr. Sunyeup Kim from Yonsei University College of Medicine and Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine in Korea, their research uncovers a concerning association between the AstraZeneca vaccine (ChAdOx1) and ptosis, a condition characterized by drooping eyelids.
The study meticulously analyzed data from a vast number of patients - a staggering 8.5 million from the Korean National Health Claim Database. They divided these patients into three groups: those uninfected and unvaccinated (controls), COVID-19 patients, and COVID-vaccinated individuals.
By dissecting the data into early (within 60 days) and late (61–180 days) phases, the researchers could pinpoint the incidence rates and hazard ratios for various neuro-ophthalmic conditions, including optic neuritis, papilledema, and various forms of cranial nerve palsy, among others.
Results: While most neuro-ophthalmic events showed no significant increase, ptosis, Guillain-Barré syndrome, and Miller-Fisher syndrome stood out.
Alarmingly, the incidence rates of ptosis were 1.65-fold to 2.02-fold higher in those vaccinated, especially with the ChAdOx1 vaccine, compared to the control group. In contrast, Guillain-Barré syndrome and Miller-Fisher syndrome were 5.97-fold more prevalent in early-phase COVID-19 patients.
However, ptosis is mainly a cosmetic concern. Severe ptosis that covers the entire eyes or obstructs vision can be treated with minor surgery. In contrast, Guillain-Barré and Miller-Fisher syndromes are long-lasting and incurable neurological disorders with symptoms of muscle weakness, paralysis, and even vision loss.
"We found a higher incidence rate of ptosis in patients who were vaccinated against COVID-19 than in those without vaccination. Additionally, patients diagnosed with COVID-19 had significantly higher incidence rates of GBS/MFS," the study authors concluded.
"Although the COVID-19 pandemic is being brought under control, several patients still suffer from infection and vaccine sequelae. Our findings may help clinicians to diagnose and treat the adverse events related to COVID-19 infection and vaccination."