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Don’t risk your vision in COVID-19 lockdown

Professor Robyn Guymer sitting next to a screen with an eye scan

CERA Deputy Director Professor Robyn Guymer AM

Leading macular researcher Professor Robyn Guymer AM is urging patients with age-related macular degeneration not to risk their sight by delaying essential treatment because of the coronavirus pandemic.

With metropolitan Melbourne now in Stage 4 restrictions and regional Victoria in Stage 3, Professor Guymer is concerned that fear will again deter patients from attending critical medical appointments.

“If you have wet AMD and regular injections with your ophthalmologist are part of your treatment, you should keep your appointments whenever you can,’’ says Professor Guymer.

“Regular injections are critical for stabilising and maintaining your vision. If you delay an appointment and lose vision as result, we may not able to restore that lost vision at your next appointment.

“If you have any form of AMD and you notice any new or increased distortion, blurring or changes to your vision that are persistent,  you should contact your optometrist or ophthalmologist straight away.

“You should not wait until the lockdown is over and hope that your vision will be ok. The earlier you have treatment the greater chance we have of saving your sight.’’

COVID-safe practice

Professor Guymer says essential medical appointments are allowed under coronavirus restrictions – and encourages patients  to ring their practitioner ahead of any scheduled appointments to find out what arrangements are in place.

“Ophthalmologists and optometrists remain open and are still seeing patients for essential medical visits,’’ she says.

“Eye clinics around Australia have introduced safety and hygiene measures – such as protective shields on equipment, masks for clinicians and patients, physical distancing in waiting rooms – to keep their patients safe.

“Anyone who has concerns about attending should contact their eye specialist to find out what safety measures are in place, and what the best course of action is for their individual circumstances.”

Declining appointments

Professor Guymer’s comments reinforce advice from medical experts – in a range of areas including cancer, diabetes and heart disease – that patients should not avoid seeking help for their conditions.

During the first lockdown, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists spoke out about ‘a worrying decline in patient appointments’ which could lead to a ‘secondary health crisis’.

The Macular Disease Foundation of Australia deployed its retiring patron Ita Buttrose to encourage people to keep attending medical appointments.

Internationally, recent reports from the UK warn that thousands of Britons are at risk of blindness because of declining patient referrals.

Protecting vision

Professor Guymer says it’s also important for patients with other eye conditions, including people with diabetes, to maintain ongoing treatments.

People without underlying health or eye conditions should also be vigilant about their sight.

“Any sudden, persistent decline in vision should always be treated as urgent and you should immediately seek help through an eye specialist.’’

 


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