As a healthcare provider, we're sure you're already receiving questions from patients about the lasting effects of the virus. There is now some initial research around how the COVID-19 virus affects the human eye, even after it's passed on from the body. We collected this research to see what relevant parts you would want to share with your patient base.
How can you communicate with eyecare patients about COVID-19?
As we mentioned, for the most part, long-term effects of COVID-19 are still being researched and explored, even outside of eye effects. That's why you might want to focus on how patients can protect their eyes and their health during the pandemic.
Include posters or pamphlets in your practice as well as patient recall and education emails that show the importance of washing your hands and not rubbing your eyes, especially for contact lens wearers. Remind patients that transmission through the eye is not as likely as through the nose and mouth, or the respiratory system, so wearing a face mask is the best defense. They shouldn't use eye drops in the hopes of flushing out the virus either, just as lubrication for irritation. Furthermore, there is only a 1-3% likelihood of getting conjunctivitis from the virus, so it's not the best sign of COVID-19 infection (Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology).
Although there aren't many long-term cases reported, some patients who have recovered from coronavirus might have difficulty focusing, double vision, or other ocular abnormalities (Jama Ophthalmology). Furthermore, here is some insight from the EUROCOVCAT group: "Although COVID-19 can be potentially life-threatening, most of the ocular conditions usually progress over a longer time and are not life-threatening. Nevertheless, due to the pandemic, some pathologies like nAMD, RRD and glaucoma, may cause irreversible loss of visual function if treatments are not administered on time."
Continue to emphasize the importance of attending regular annual exams to your patients and make them as contact-free as possible to protect your staff. This might be mean incorporating telehealth visits, walk-up windows, and digital patient forms.
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