Macular degeneration is a common eye disease that can affect a lot of people in their 50s and 60s, putting them towards the ‘at-risk’ group for COVID-19. This, along with being told to stay and home and the fact that all non-urgent hospital appointments are being deferred or cancelled, is rightly causing some confusion around what those with macular degeneration can and cannot do.

Don’t worry. Specsavers have gathered all the relevant information from the right sources to explain exactly how you can manage your macular degeneration at home during the pandemic.

Can macular degeneration increase the risk of COVID-19?

There is, as of now, no scientific evidence to suggest that macular degeneration can increase the likelihood of someone developing COVID-19.

Additionally, there is also no scientific evidence saying that having macular degeneration will make you more susceptible to the coronavirus (Sars-Cov-2).

I have wet AMD, can I still see my doctor?

All routine appointments in eye clinics have been, and will likely continue to be, postponed. However, treatment injections for wet AMD, and other conditions which would cause severe visual loss if not treated, are still going ahead. Please get in touch with your eye doctor regarding this if you are worried.

However, if you think you have the coronavirus it’s important you do not go to your local hospital. Should you have an appointment, give your eye clinic a call and they will rearrange your treatment for when any symptoms have subsided.

If you do not have any reason to suspect you may have coronavirus, then we would advise all patients receiving injections to attend their appointments as usual, unless told otherwise by their eye clinic.

For more information on this, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the Macular Society released this joint statement.

I have dry AMD and have noticed a change in my vision, but I’m in a high-risk group for COVID-19. Can I still see my eye doctor?

Yes. Contact your eye doctor if you have one, or local Specsavers optometrist if not, by phone in the first instance, and they will provide further advice and guidance.

What information sources can I trust regarding AMD and coronavirus?

The Macular Society, along with the NHS, should be your trusted sources of information. Audio versions of the UK Prime Minister’s communications and guidelines are now available on The Macular Society website to help those living with visual impairments.

How to manage dry and wet macular degeneration at home during COVID-19

For both conditions, you should continue to monitor any changes in your vision and notify your eye doctor or local optometrist by phone, in the first instance.

However, at home, an Amsler chart can be used to monitor changes to your central vision.  

An Amsler chart checks for signs of inflammation or fluid leakage in the central area of the retina. It works by making any distortion in your central vision more obvious. If you have been advised to monitor your vision for signs of distortion, you should test yourself with this chart regularly.

These are the instructions on using the chart, as stated by the Association of Optometrists:

  1. Wear your reading glasses
  2. Hold the chart 15 inches away from your eye
  3. Close one eye and look at the central dot
  4. Note any wavy lines, distortion or fuzziness
  5. Repeat with the other eye
  6. For people with existing macular degeneration, the lines may already be wavy, distorted or broken, you are looking for changes to that pattern
  7. For those without diagnosed macular degeneration, any wavy, distorted or broken lines are a reason to contact your optometrist


You can view an Amsler chart home test here.

Of course, as at any time, you should continue to adhere to general health advice to reduce the risk of macular degeneration from getting worse. This includes:

  • Stop smoking
  • A healthy, balanced diet
  • Avoid UV exposure by using appropriate sunglasses when outside

If you have AMD and have noticed a recent change in your eyesight, speak to one of our experts via our RemoteCare service. They can discuss you symptoms in detail and book an appointment with your optician if needed.

For more information regarding COVID-19 and eye health, please visit our care page here.

References

1. The Macular Society. (Date Unkown). Coronavirus. [Online]. Available at: https://www.macularsociety.org/coronavirus [Accessed 08/04/2020]

2. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists. (20/03/2020). Wet AMD patients’ injections and appointments during Coronavirus pandemic. [Online]. Available at: https://www.rcophth.ac.uk/2020/03/wet-amd-patients-injections-and-appointments-during-coronavirus-pandemic/ [Accessed 08/04/2020]

3. NHS. (Date Unkown). What is AMD? [Online]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/age-related-macular-degeneration-amd/  [Accessed 08/04/2020]

4. The New England Journal of Medicine. (06/03/2020). Clinical Characteristics of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in China. [Online]. Available at: https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa2002032 [Accessed 08/04/2020] 

5. Association of Optometrists. (Date Unknown). Amsler Chart. [Online]. Available at: https://www.aop.org.uk/advice-and-support/for-patients/amsler-chart [Accessed 08/04/2020]

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