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Taking Care of Your Eyes During COVID-19 — What You Should Know

By Kira Wang   

While the global pandemic has interrupted many healthcare services, eye care is still essential and available under certain circumstances

Diabetes can lead to changes or problems in your vision, making annual eye appointments a necessity for every person with diabetes. One can prevent complications with vision for many years, even many decades, with some luck – it’s about glucose management as well as genes. For people who already have eye complications, treatment may be required as often as every few months in order to keep eyesight as strong as possible. But COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of our daily lives, including the ability to visit eye care professionals for regular appointments. Although providers may not be able to see you in person at this time, there are still ways for you to access the care you need and keep your eyes as healthy as possible.

Can I still see my eye care provider in person?

We reached out to diaTribe’s network of healthcare professionals and learned that eye care providers are still treating emergencies and people with advanced cases of diabetes-related retinopathy and diabetes-related macular edema. Emergencies might include cases of trauma, infection, or sudden changes in vision (e.g., flashing lights, floaters, blurriness) – if you have experienced any of these situations, talk to your healthcare team right away.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes-related retinopathy or diabetes-related macular edema, delaying treatment can risk worsening vision, and you may need to receive in-person care. If your treatment has been rescheduled, double-check with your healthcare team to make sure your vision is not at risk. For more mild cases of diabetes-related retinopathy or diabetes-related macular edema, your healthcare professional may consider the risks of exposure to COVID-19 versus how your vision will be affected without scheduled treatment.

Planning ahead is important, and every person is different – ask your doctor in advance about what specific plan works for you. If you do visit your eye care provider in person, remember to wear a face covering—this will help keep you and your healthcare team safe!

Telemedicine and eye care: when can I talk to my healthcare professional virtually? 

For problems with the outside of your eye, video visits can help you connect with your provider right from your home. Issues outside your eye might include redness, discharge, or swollenness. Explaining your symptoms to your provider over video can help them determine whether you’ll need to be seen in person.

What should I know about scheduling eye appointments in the midst of COVID-19?

For those who already have regularly scheduled eye appointments, your check-ups may be delayed during these times. If your visit is delayed, you should still pay attention to any changes in your vision. You can do this by giving yourself an at-home eye test.  If you don’t already have annual visits with an eye care professional, try to set up an appointment as soon as eye care clinics are back up and running.

Remember: keeping your blood sugar levels in range is central to maintaining healthy eyes.

In these challenging times, we are impressed by the use of telemedicine, for eye care and beyond. For more information on telemedicine during COVID-19, check out these nine tips by longtime diaTribe advisor Dr. Francine Kaufman. To the many healthcare professionals out there, we are grateful for your service and support. Mark your calendars—July is Healthy Vision Month, and we’ll have more articles on eyes coming your way soon!

About Kira

Kira Wang graduated from Duke University summa cum laude with a degree in psychology and minors in biology and chemistry. She wrote a senior thesis on the transactional coping strategies of parents and youths with chronic illness and spent time researching eye imaging techniques in the Duke Eye Center.

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