Eye care professionals have warned that many people missing out on essential eye care as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are at great risk of further deterioration of their vision.
According to them, there has been an increase in people missing their eye care appointments because of the pandemic.
The Medical Director of the Eye Doctors Group of Clinics, Dr. Abiola Oyeleye, who spoke in an interview with PUNCH HealthWise said when individuals with chronic eye conditions miss their appointments, run out of their medication or are not being monitored, their conditions can become progressively worse. The expert said:
“There would also be problems with new patients who have acute problems that need sorting out straight away, said Dr. Oyeleye, who is also the Vice-President of the Ophthalmological Society of Nigeria.
“The fear of not coming to the hospital may let them neglect this and the old adage says a stitch in time saves nine. With having not come to the hospital, the condition might become more serious at the time they present it.”
Dr. Oyeleye said the risk is highest with children because they may not be able to express their symptoms. He stated further:
“The people most at risk could be children, as they sometimes may not be able to complain or express their symptoms.
“Also, people with chronic progressive diseases are at risk, the most common of which is glaucoma. Missing the clinic will make the glaucoma progress more.
“People with diabetic retinopathy (the problem in the eye-related to diabetes) may also worsen, if not checked.
“In some certain types of macular degeneration, whereby they have treatable problems in the retina that is not treated at an early stage are at risk too.”
An ophthalmologist at Omnivision Limited, Dr. Mosun Adegoke, who also spoke with PUNCH urged people with sight-threatening conditions to visit health facilities for care, notwithstanding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Adegoke said:
“Practitioners and patients will have to protect themselves because there is no way I can look into the back of your eye without coming close to your nose even when I’m wearing a mask.
“There is no way somebody can do an eye examination without coming close to you; you can’t do it in one or two metres apart.
“So, the only thing is that eye issue that is sight-threatening should be dealt with now. This is not the time to open up clinics for surgery that is not essential.”
“If you wake up suddenly and observe that your vision goes down, then you need to show up at the hospital because it may be that if it’s not attended to on time, you may lose your sight.”
Oyeleye said while it is very understandable that most people are avoiding going to the hospital because of the coronavirus pandemic, most hospitals have preventive measures put in place. He added:
“There are also things done in various clinics like the use of temperature checks, hand sanitiser, using of personal protective equipment by the staff depending on the type of clinic you go, or some barrier methods which prevent very close contact between the doctor and the patient.”
The ophthalmologist said people who need eye care should endeavour to contact their eye clinics for professional care. Oyeleye stated:
“Your clinics might have set up telephone consultations whereby there might not be any need to go to the hospital. If there is, they should give you an appointment which will regulate the number of people in the hospital at any given time.
“You should also obey the general measures outlined by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the various state governments.
“You should take universal precautions, which include handwashing, and the use of face mask, face shields.”