During the coronavirus pandemic, it was declared by the government that ophthalmologists should not be seeing patients for care unless it’s an urgent emergency situation. This is done because there is a higher risk of the virus droplets being transmitted while checking the patient’s eyes. So routine patient visits are being rescheduled and any eye surgeries and procedures that are not emergencies are being postponed. In such a situation, it is important to take care of health and vision especially those who are already suffering from visual problems.
So many health organizations have given out tips for glaucoma patients and how precautions can be taken every day to protect your visionary health during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important to take notice of your eyes and vision every day. First, the good news: most types of glaucoma are chronic and evolving gradually, so if your glaucoma was stable prior to the pandemic, delaying your visit for a few months does not have a significant effect.
Call your doctor immediately if you are having the following symptoms:
- You can get eye pain and a red eye, headache, and nausea/vomiting in acute angle-closure glaucoma. This will require a call to the ophthalmologist for instructions about management and medicines. But stop going straight to the nearest emergency room as it may be already flooded with patients.
- If your glaucoma was not under sufficient control before the pandemic, and after your last consultation your ophthalmologist had arranged a follow-up visit for you. The first thing to do is to call your ophthalmologist for follow-up. If he/she isn’t available, find the nearest university with an ophthalmology department (the google search for the “Ophthalmology department” should identify those near you) and request an appointment.
- Video visits are very difficult for glaucoma patients as you can not test your eye pressure, and the optic nerve can not be checked. A telephone call or video visit, however, will allow your ophthalmologist to determine how urgently you need to see yourself at the office.
Ophthalmologists recommend safety and tips for glaucoma patients, it is as follows:
- Be sure to store up on your eye drops, including requesting a three-month prescription to limit drug store trips and not waiting for a refill until the last minute.
- During extraordinary circumstances like this pandemic, some insurers will cover supplies for three months. If you have difficulty obtaining permission from your insurance provider, ask your pharmacist or ophthalmologist for assistance.
- Be extra careful every time you put the drops in your eyes – wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before and after you put them in.
- Close your eyes for 30 seconds after you put the eye drops in, and dab your eyes with a clean tissue.
- Stop rubbing your eyes, and more frequently suggest wearing shades, like outdoor sunglasses. While you are not 100 percent protected by glasses, they serve as a protective barrier and can also help remind you not to touch your eyes.
Ophthalmologists and glaucoma specialists throughout the country are actively identifying safe protocols for patient examination and testing once clinics are reopened. Carrying out COVID-19 and eye-related studies and evaluating best practices for glaucoma treatment is a significant step to be taken in preserving your eye health and keeping you and others healthy. Your “routine” clinic visit and experience at your eye doctor’s office will probably change in the future in a bid to prioritize your eye care and safety.