Purpose: Abnormal hypercoagulability and increased thromboembolic risk are common in patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19). COVID-19 has been suggested to cause retinal vascular damage, with several studies on COVID-19 patients with retinal vascular occlusions. We reviewed and investigated studies on retinal vascular occlusions in patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and in those vaccinated for COVID-19.
Methods: Studies that reported retinal vascular occlusion in COVID-19 patients or in vaccinated people were identified using the terms "retinal occlusion," together with "severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2", "SARS-CoV-2," "COVID-19," "coronavirus," and "vaccine," through systematic searches of PubMed and Google Scholar databases until January 7, 2022.
Results: Thirteen cases of retinal artery occlusion (RAO) and 14 cases of retinal vein occlusion (RVO) were identified among patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Half of the patients with RAO or RVO revealed no systemic disorders except current or past COVID-19, and ocular symptoms were the initial presentation in five cases. Among patients with RAO, most presented with central RAO at 1-14 days of COVID-19 diagnosis, with abnormal coagulation and inflammatory markers. Among those with RVO, two-thirds presented with central RVO and one-third with RVO. Eleven cases with acute macular neuroretinopathy (AMN) and/or paracentral acute middle maculopathy (PAMM) were reported among patients with COVID-19, presenting scotoma resolved spontaneously in most cases. Among the 26 cases vaccinated with either mRNA or adenoviral vector vaccines for COVID-19 and presenting retinal vascular occlusions, there were more RVO cases than RAO cases, and ocular symptoms mostly occurred within 3 weeks after vaccination. One case presented bilateral AMN and PAMM after COVID-19 vaccination.
Conclusion: Retinal vascular occlusions might be a manifestation of COVID-19, although rare, especially in patients at risk of systemic hypercoagulability and thromboembolism. For COVID-19 vaccines, the causal relationship is controversial because there are few case reports of retinal vascular occlusions after COVID-19 vaccination.
Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Retinal artery occlusion; Retinal vein occlusion; Vaccine.
© 2023. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.