Fear of COVID-19 Affects Macular Degeneration Treatment

Fear of COVID-19 Affects Macular Degeneration Treatment

As COVID-19 marches across the globe, humans continue to hide and protect from this invisible threat which has killed about 100,000+ Americans and approximately 400,000+ people worldwide (as of this writing). However, it is those in the macular degeneration demographic that are at most risk, namely anyone about over the age of 60. 

This community has remained, for the most part, locked down more than any other. Now that some states are re-opening to various restrictions, it can be a world of anxiety for seniors to just set foot out of their home as threatening asymptomatic carriers begin to re-populate their communities. 

In addition to a variety of ailments the elderly must endure, fear of COVID-19 affects macular degeneration treatment as well. This is highly disconcerting as lack of adequate care ranging from a much needed checkup to anti-VEGF injections (missing just one injection may reverse prior therapy) can cause rapid degeneration of the retina leading to early blindness. 

If you or someone you know has AMD (age-related macular degeneration) take the time to consider some statistics and suggestions in this article. 

The Harsh Reality

Unfortunately, protecting yourself from coronavirus has become the new norm. Until a vaccine is discovered, social distancing, masks and gloves will be required. Many elderly people just cannot deal with that so friends and family help deliver them food and other needs. However, what many of these good intentioned delivery teams are not asking is “Do you ned to see your eye doctor?”

According to leading analytic company, Global Data, 

“More than half of all age-related macular degeneration cases go undiagnosed”

Don’t let these inconveniences of the harsh reality we are temporarily in cloud judgment when it comes to eye and overall health maintenance. If this virus continues to keep people from proper eye care, they could become another statistic that goes beyond treatment.

What Can Be Done

Obviously, all the COVID-19 precautions currently in place should continue to be taken but there are some other things that can be done to get yourself or someone you know to visit an eye doctor as well as adhere to important practices at home. 


Determine if it is an emergency to see an ophthalmologist. This would fall under the obvious symptoms such as pain, swelling, or sudden onset of visual problems which could indicate a rapid escalation of AMD or something more serious. 

BBC News reported, 

“Edwina Knight began experience problems, saying: 

“I was playing a game on my tablet, and my eyes went foggy. I just blamed it on tiredness and dirty glasses so went to bed not thinking much of it, but when I woke up I couldn’t see anything out of my left eye.” 

The 78-year-old contacted her local opticians and was examined at the store, before being referred to the hospital. It was discovered she had had a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) – also known as a mini-stroke – behind her [left] eye.”

Because of her lack of optical treatment due to COVID-19 fears, Ms. Knight lost the sight in her left eye. She was quoted as saying, 

“The doctor at the hospital told me that, had they seen me sooner, they could have saved my sight.”

During the COVID-19 lockdown (and beyond), it is imperative to keep vigilant when it comes to eye health. Pay attention to your visual health, report any vision changes, and although it may be difficult at this time, maintain treatments such as anti-VEGF injections. 

According to Dr. Rahul N. Khurana, Retina Vitreous Associates of Northern California,

“Seniors should not sacrifice their sight to fear. Anti-VEGF injections are essential for those who require them, and should not be skipped – even in a shelter-in-place scenario.  If you must come in for essential care, take appropriate precautions like hand washing and social distancing, and come in.”

Transportation is essential in an emergency so a good plan should be in effect. This can be an easily accessible number to a local car service, calling an app ride, or if possible driving yourself to an ophthalmologist or hospital. 

Telehealth Appointment

Many ophthalmologists are beginning to offer telehealth or telemedicine sessions to their patients. This would involve speaking to a doctor via Zoom, Skype, Face-time, or any other digital camera-call option. Although it is not a complete examination with the essential equipment needed to view the back of the retina where AMD often manifests, it can give a practitioner the option to generally assess a person to determine an emergency, adjust meds, or ease anxiety.

If you or someone you know is not capable of setting up a telehealth session then it is best to reach out or help those in need by finding the best digital option available. Sometimes, if the technology is unavailable, a simple phone call may be possible and really can help. 

Self-Chart Tracking

If struggling with your sight doesn’t seem to be a problem at this time, then it has been recommended to use a self-chart tracking protocol to maintain healthy sight. The Amsler Grid (free to download at https://www.macular.org/amsler-chart) enables the user to check sight daily. If the distortion of the grid worsens then contacting your eye doctor is essential. It is an excellent way to be proactive, especially when in lockdown mode. 

Keep Supplementing

The other proactive action you should begin (but hopefully be continuing) is taking retina strengthening supplements. This not only applies to those in the high-risk category but for anyone over 35 who wants to help prevent potential optical deterioration. 

Supplements should include the essential nutrients found to ‘feed’ the human retina known as the ARED (age-related eye study) I or II formulas which contain:

  • Lutein
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Vitamin A (a pre-cursor to beta-carotene)
  • Vitamin B
  • Vitamin C
  • Beta-carotene (some formulas)
  • Bioflavonoids
  • Antioxidants like ginkgo biloba and bilberry
  • Omega-3 fatty acid
  • Zinc (do not take additional zinc if taking this supplement) 

These formulas may include other beneficial ingredients but these are the most effective. 

In addition to supplementation, maintaining a whole food diet is just as essential for optimal immune system support. This means consuming dark green leafy vegetables, colorful fruits and berries as well as whole grains. Add in some gentle home physical activity as well as eye exercises which will increase circulation to the retina and enhance supplemental support at the same time.

Don’t let the fear of COVID-19 affect macular degeneration treatment. Stay safe and prepared by following common sense and good decisions.