You may be worried about getting important treatments for your eye condition – especially if treatment is critical to saving vision. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) offer advice to help patients navigate the changes in eye care during this coronavirus crisis. We summarize the experts here but urge you to stay in touch with your own specialists at this uncertain time.
What to Expect at the Clinic
Eye clinics are taking strict precautions and practicing social distancing to reduce the risk for transmission of coronavirus while caring for patients face-to-face. See Part 1 of our series for specific ways they are protecting staff and patients and the changes in care you can expect. Be sure to call the office before an appointment to discuss your risks and any specific instructions the staff may have for you.
Recommendations for Patients with Dry AMD
If you have early, dry AMD, you should:
- Postpone any non-urgent doctor visits
- Continue to monitor your vision at home using the Amsler Grid once a week
- Make healthy lifestyle choices as recommended, including eating a diet that is protective for AMD.
- Take your eye supplements if ordered
- Report any change in your vision to your eye care specialist
Caution: The AMDF advises against taking products that contain additional zinc, like cold and flu lozenges. Many eye supplements already have zinc in them and too much can lead to toxicity.
Guidelines for Those with Wet AMD
You may have difficulty in making decisions about keeping monthly appointments for eye injections. Studies show getting regular Anti-VEGF injections can maintain the vision you have and missing treatments can have negative effects. Right now, this benefit must be weighed against the risks to your health and life. If you are unsure about seeing your retinal specialist for your regular injections, you can:
- Call the office and ask what special accommodations are in place for high-risk patients.
- Request a telehealth with the doctor to discuss all your options.
- Take all the precautions to protect yourself – handwashing and social distancing.
- Secure a trusted family member or friend to transport you and don’t be shy about screening them or asking them to wear a mask to protect you further. If you must use other transport, follow all safety precautions.
Note: Your retinal specialist will decide what changes can be safely made in your injection schedule. She will consider many factors about your eye history and vision status to make this determination. The AAO and the AMDF believe, with all the right precautions in place, it can be safe for you to get essential eye treatments during the pandemic. As noted in the AAO health tips, “…clinics are making special accommodations for high risk patients, as described above. Call ahead of your appointment to make sure that these are in place.”
Some doctors are using Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat the virus. These drugs can cause health complications, including retinal damage, Check with your eye doctor before taking them.