Impact of COVID-19 on Macular Degeneration Care

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about my decision to take the vaccine for COVID-19. I based my decision on the emerging reports that people with macular degeneration were at higher risk for complications. In my article, I expressed my concern about the potential impact of COVID-19 on my dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD).1

Fast forward and I have some answers I would like to share with the macular degeneration community. Research has emerged that as anticipated, a negative impact has resulted for many with macular degeneration. The studies demonstrated that COVID-19 is associated with worse short-term outcomes in patients with macular degeneration. 2

How has COVID-19 impacted those with macular degeneration?

As an advocate for the macular degeneration community, I read comments from our members daily. Members have shared three ways the pandemic has impacted them:

  1. Delayed appointments
  2. Family and other support people are not allowed in with patients
  3. Progression of macular degeneration when they could not get into their retinal specialist promptly

A change to my routine treatment

In my case, there has been little impact other than stress over the possible impact of a missed appointment. I see the retinal specialist every six months. My first regular appointment after the COVID-19 pandemic was rescheduled. The clinic I go to only saw those with wet AMD initially. They asked patients with dry AMD to delay our visits but to report promptly any any new or worsening symptoms. By the end of 2020, the clinic resumed regular appointments. I was relieved when my scan results indicated no changes in my dry AMD.

My sister's experience with AMD and other chronic conditions

My sister has not been so fortunate. She has had wet AMD in one eye for many years. The other eye with dry AMD had remained stable. At the time the pandemic began, she was getting monthly injections.

The satellite clinic was very close to her home and she routinely drove herself. Due to COVID-19, her doctor stopped coming to the satellite clinic. This necessitated her having to arrange for her daughter to drive her into the city for care. Initially, the clinic rescheduled some of her appointments delaying her treatment. My sister has diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and congestive heart failure (CHF). She was fearful of contracting the virus and canceled appointments until she could be vaccinated.

Dry to wet

In July of this year, my sister’s dry eye progressed to wet AMD. Now instead of monthly appointments, she goes every two weeks alternating eyes for injections. Like countless others, COVID-19 has negatively impacted her AMD and life in general. With regular appointments, she likely would have been caught the progression to wet AMD much sooner.

Changes in daily life

An additional impact of the pandemic has been a decline in her ability to drive herself for routine errands as well as to her eye appointments. Today outside of driving a short distance to the local Dollar General, she no longer drives. She has lost her confidence in her ability to drive and depends on her daughter and grandchildren to drive her.

Please leave a comment if, like my sister, you have been negatively impacted by the pandemic.

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