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Apr 9, 2020

Coronavirus and Your Macular Degeneration Care

Reviewed By: Johanna M Seddon MD, Rahul Khurana, MD

If you have macular degeneration, you may feel worried about catching the coronavirus or maintaining your eye care during the pandemic. Experts at the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF) have assembled the following advice especially for you.

What you might expect at the clinic 

AMD clinics are taking precautions to ensure the health and safety of patients by reducing the potential for virus transmission and enforcing social distancing. Though each office will have their own variations on protocols, the general guidelines they are following are: 

  • Rescheduling routine patient visits 
  • Postponing elective surgeries
  • Asking patients over the age of 60 without urgent ocular problems to stay home
  • Having patients wash their hands immediately upon arrival
  • Decreasing the number of patients in the waiting room 
  • Regularly disinfecting surfaces 
  • Having staff members wear masks and gloves
  • Having doctors and nurses wear ocular and oral shields to prevent virus transmission during close examinations
  • Informing patients that the ophthalmologist will speak as little as possible during parts of the examination, and requesting that the patient also refrain from talking in these moments.

Additional precautions being taken at clinics:

  • Telling patients with cold, flu, and allergy symptoms to stay at home
  • Positioning a sentry at the door to screen entering patients 
  • Screening patients with questions about fever, cough, travel history, and the travel history of family members 
  • Asking that patients wear a surgical mask if they have any sign or symptom of respiratory disease
  • Rescheduling the visits of those who are sick, have a cough or fever, have been exposed to COVID-19 or have recently traveled outside the United States
  • Referring patients and staff members with a temperature above 99.5º to their primary care providers
  • Limiting patients to only one visitor accompanying them (other friends or family must wait in the car)
  • Asking anyone accompanying a patient to remain outside the building, where they will be contacted by text message when the patient departs
  • Positioning chairs in the waiting room 6 feet apart from each other 
  • Removing magazines and beverage areas from the waiting room

What you can do to maintain your vision health during these difficult times 

For patients with early, dry AMD: postpone non-urgent doctor visits, maintain home monitoring and continue making healthy lifestyle choices.

“Patient – physician conversations are the most important element of establishing a patient’s course of action under today’s circumstances,” says ophthalmologist and Academy spokesperson Rahul N. Khurana, MD.  “Any change in your vision should be reported to your eye care specialist.”

At home, you can track changes in your vision by using the Amsler Grid. It is advised to monitor at least once a week. 

If your doctor has advised supplements with lutein and zeaxanthin, continue with those, as well as an eye-healthy diet (which is also good for your heart and general health). However, if you are taking a supplement for AMD that contains zinc (which is included in the recommended AREDS and AREDS2 formulas), ophthalmologist and AMDF spokesperson Johanna M. Seddon, MD, ScM, advises that taking additional zinc lozenges for cold or flu prevention may lead to zinc toxicity. Check with your doctor, as your AMD supplement may already supply all the zinc you need to maintain your immune system…….

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Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology

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