Many people have delayed getting their eyes examined during this time, whether it is due to avoiding going out, other priorities or work situations. Many eye doctors have closed their offices during this crisis. In some parts of the country (e.g., New Jersey), eye care practitioners are only permitted to see true eye emergency patients or face State Board disciplinary action. Fortunately, it is not that drastic here in Arizona and in many other places.
Here are a few facts and recommendations as we work through this crisis. I will base some of the information on how our office is working with our patients, and you can check with your regular eye doctor to see what their procedures are right now.
First, there is a form of conjunctivitis (inflammation of the white part of the eye) that has been associated with COVID-19. It is not among the most common signs of the disease, and there are many other causes of red eye besides this specific virus, so don’t panic if your eyes get red. When you call, your eye doctor’s office will likely ask if you have other symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, etc.) to see if it is OK for you to be seen in their office. If you do show other symptoms, or if you are just not comfortable going out, they, like us, might offer “virtual consultations” through telemedicine (text, photos, videos, FaceTime, Zoom), where a diagnosis could be determined and a treatment plan put in place without you having to leave your home. We have been encouraging all patients with eye emergencies to avoid emergency rooms and Urgent Care centers so that their resources can focus on people who might be sick from the virus and to help protect you from possible exposure to people who might be sick from the virus. Your eye doctor, like us, may also have an after-hours emergency system where they can be paged. Over the past month, I have met numerous patients at my office over the weekend with serious eye problems like sudden retinal detachments and strokes in the eye, issues that cannot wait until this crisis passes. If you have something sudden and dramatic, do not delay…call!
Your doctor might be willing to extend out expiration dates on ocular medications and contact lenses. We are refilling medication requests and are extending contact lens expiration dates as well as shipping a supply of contact lenses directly to patients, with no charge for shipping. As far as contact lenses are concerned, the CDC has determined that contact lens use during this crisis is still acceptable. Just make sure you wash your hands before and after insertion of contact lenses. While routine eye care can be delayed for now, we are “triaging” each patient who calls to determine when it would be best to schedule their appointment. Your eye doctor may be doing the same, so they may be available for more than just true emergencies.
All of our lives have been drastically impacted during this crisis. It is hard to fully grasp how different life is now than it was just two months ago. We all believe this will pass, and there will be changes in our day-to-day existence. Hopefully, many will be for the better. Stay safe!
Dr. Stephen Cohen has been in private practice in Scottsdale since 1985. His office motto is, “Where modern technology meets old-fashioned care,” and he provides eye care from infants to seniors. He can be reached at 480.513.3937 or by email at email@example.com. His website is www.doctormyeyes.net.