FAQs About Your Eye Helath and COVID-19 from FBC

Fighting Blindness Canada logo with a close up of the COVID-19 virus beside it.

We understand that this time of uncertainty may be confusing. Our friends at Fighting Blindness Canada have prepared answers to some questions you may have about your eye health during this challenging time.

Please note that different levels of government and professional associations have made recommendations regarding health care practices in response to COVID-19. There may be different recommendations depending on your personal eye health, health care provider, or where you live.

How will COVID-19 affect my routine eye exam?

Currently, many eye care appointments, treatments, and surgeries are being delayed or temporarily cancelled. Some reasons for appointment cancellations include:

  • To reduce the need to be in close contact with others
  • To reduce the use of resources (especially surgical resources) that may be needed to support the COVID-19 response (e.g. gloves, gowns, masks, personnel, and hospital rooms)
  • To minimize the need for travel

If you have an eye care appointment, treatment, or elective surgery (surgery that is not emergent) scheduled in the next 3 weeks, call your eye doctor to learn the status of your appointment.

What will happen if my routine eye exam or elective surgery is cancelled?

Right now, the focus is on managing the spread of COVID-19. If your appointment is not critical, it’s okay to reschedule your appointment upon the direction of your doctor.

Is it safe that my eye appointment was cancelled?

  • If you have an elective surgery cancelled, ask your doctor how long you will need to wait to reschedule.
  • If you have a treatment scheduled, such as anti-VEGF injection, check to see if your injection has been delayed.

Remember to stay in contact with your eye doctor’s office to know when it is safe to rebook your appointment. It’s important you keep track of your eye health and notify your doctor of any sudden changes if they occur.

What counts as an urgent appointment?

Your doctor will decide if you appointment is urgent based on your eye condition and health. Your doctor may choose to keep an appointment for some of the following reasons:

  • Urgent injections for age-related macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema, diabetic retinopathy, or vein occlusions
  • Urgent laser for any of the above
  • Retinal detachment
  • Urgent retinal tears
  • New injections or laser for newly diagnosed wet AMD, prolific diabetic retinopathy, and recurrent retinal vein occlusion
  • Physical trauma to the eye
  • Cancer care involving the eye

Please check with your eye doctor to confirm they can take your appointment and find out where to go if they’re not able to see you.

What if I have an eye emergency?

You should follow the same protocol for eye health emergencies. Call your eye doctor’s office to schedule an emergency appointment. If your emergency relates to a trauma to the eye, you should call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.

NOTE: Emergency rooms may be busier than normal because of the COVID-19 outbreak. If you’re vulnerable to severe illness, call your local public health number before you go to the hospital.

If I get COVID-19, will my eyesight be affected?

COVID-19 is a form of coronavirus that causes respiratory symptoms (for more information on symptoms, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/symptoms.html). Several cases of conjunctivitis (pink eye) have been reported, but to date there are no reports of COVID-19 in the eye.

NOTE: If you’re experiencing any symptoms relating to COVID-19, call your local public health authority. If you experience any symptoms of sight loss, call your eye doctor’s office.

If my eye doctor keeps my appointment, what can I expect?

A visit to your eye doctor may look different in the coming months. Here are some things you may experience:

  • You may only be allowed to bring one support person to your visit. You will both be screened for any cold symptoms. If either of you have symptoms, you may be required to wear a mask and sanitize your hands. If the person you are with shows symptoms, they may not be allowed into the clinic with you.
  • In the waiting room, you may see fewer patients and be required to sit far apart. Staff may also be wearing masks.
  • In your appointment, you may see more protective shields around the slit lamp (called a breath shield). Your eye doctor may be wearing protective equipment.
  • You may be asked not to talk until after your examination or procedure, to prevent the transfer of small particles of saliva.

What can I do to protect my eyesight during this time?
Whether you have an eye disease or not, here are things you can do to protect your eye health:

  • If you don’t have an eye disease, follow the guidelines from Health Canada to protect yourself and others.
  • If you have an eye disease that requires daily drops, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before you administer drops.
  • If you’re taking medication for your eyes, make sure you have enough medication to last you a 14-day period of isolation. For example missing even 1 or 2 days of certain Glaucoma medications can lead to additional vision loss.
  • If you wear contact lenses, try and switch to using your glasses for the next little while. Contact lens wearers tend to touch their face and eyes more often, which can contribute to the risk of contracting COVID-19.

What if I’m participating in a clinical trial? Is it still running?
Many resources are being directed to the frontline health workers. Many clinical trials have been halted for the time being, until a reassessment is possible. If you are currently participating in a clinical trial and you haven’t received information about the status, reach out to your trial coordinator. If you’ve signed up for a clinical trial but haven’t yet started your treatment, it’s possible your start date may be delayed. Check with your coordinator to find out more.

How long will this current situation last?
We’re not sure how long the threat from COVID –19 will last. Listen to trusted authorities (and check with the resources listed above) for such determinations as to when it’s appropriate to return to normal circumstance.

For the most accurate information and status of any upcoming treatments and appointments, please contact your health care provider.