visiting opticians during the coronavirus pandemic

Visiting your opticians during COVID-19

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Since new government guidelines came into play, most optical practices are now only providing minimal services.

However, those worried about the state of their eyes during this time should know that optical specialists are included in the government’s list of essential workers. This means that they will be available to help if urgently needed.

Ultimately this means that routine checkups are no longer being offered and patients are encouraged not to go to their opticians unless it is essential.

NHS poster on coronavirus for optical practices

Informational poster provided by the NHS for optical practices to use in store [The College of Optometrists]

Three of the four countries in the UK have release their own guidance on what “essential” means, with England (at the time of writing) being the only one yet to release an official statement, although this is expected to change soon. However, other optical bodies have provided their own guidance on how opticians should approach the coronavirus crisis and they include providing spectacles or repairs for key workers, who cannot work without their glasses, and helping with any sudden changes to vision or painful eyes. If there is no clinical need for a patient to attend an optical practice, optical businesses are encouraged to post or deliver spectacles to their patients. If there is a clinical need, then the practice is to use their professional judgement to decide on the best course of action.

Contact lenses, again, can be posted out if the specification is in date. If the specification is not in date then it is up to the professional to judge which has a higher risk, possible COVID-19 spread or dispensing an out of date contact lens specification.

Poster for optical practices during the coronavirus period

Poster for use in optical practices with information on when they are able to help during the coronavirus lockdown. Created by The College of Optometrists [The College of Optometrists]

It is important to note that guidance on this topic can vary depending on whether the practice is based in England, Scotland, Wales, or Northern Ireland. For the most up to date information, please visit their respective NHS websites.

The General Optical Council also have a page dedicated to updates on the Covid-19 situation and what guidance has been made.

 

If you have sight loss and are struggling with self-isolation, we created a list of tips that may help you out during this time. OXSIGHT are also operational and our opticians are available to chat if advice is needed. Our number is 01865 580255.

isolated man staring out a window

Self-isolation tips for those with sight loss

With coronavirus making a massive impact on the landscape in the United Kingdom, many people will now find themselves staying at home in self-isolation under lockdown.

The visually impaired community will be no exception and, while there may be numerous guides and advice for how people should handle staying at home, there are a lack of resources specifically for those with sight loss.

So we’ve compiled a list of tips for those with a visual impairment during their self isolation and lockdown.

1. Keeping family and friends close

Social distancing is a buzzword in recent times. But despite this, it is still important to have close ones nearby, whether it be physically or digitally.

Being able to talk and converse is important to not feeling completely isolated and will help with mental health.

Physical closeness can also help with procurement of essential supplies if stock at home runs low.

2. Take advantage of store policies

Many stores and supermarkets have announced policies which allow those who are vulnerable or disabled to have priority during certain times of the day. Take advantage of these slots to ensure that you have everything you need.

Time slots also mean that the number of people around will be reduced and so make it easier to avoid larger crowds.

3. Assistive technologies can help

Assistive technology has made it easier for many people to accomplish tasks that they once struggled with. OXSIGHT smart glasses have helped those with peripheral vision loss to take advantage of their remaining vision and expand their field of view.

There are also apps that connect those with sight loss with others who can then “become their eyes” through the use of a phone camera. Voice activated gadgets are also abundant. Alexa and Siri are just a couple of the artificial intelligences that can be found in devices.

Henshaws have a great online resource for assistive technology and they go in depth on which ones are suited to what purpose and how to find the ones that work best for you.

4. Communities are always around

Help is often just a click or phone call away. OXSIGHT’s phone lines remain open and our opticians are available to discuss eyesight concerns. Henshaws have also kept their phone lines open for people to call (0300 222 5555) and they offer more advice on getting the most out of assistive technology whilst being inside.

Many other charities and organisations are also ensuring that they are contactable during this time so that no one is ever truly alone.

Also, there are plenty of communities online which offer an outlet to talk and share experiences. These online gatherings are a great source of comfort and companionship especially during a crisis like this.

5. Stay away from social media

This may seem counterintuitive given tip number 4, but social media is not all good.

There is much fake news and, arguably worse, fear-mongering online. This can be particularly true during global crises. Taking breaks from scrolling can give the mind a bit of rest and a way to isolate yourself from what is happening.

Another reason why it may be a good idea to limit the amount of time spent online is the prevalence of scams. There has been an increase in the number of scams that aim to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic. From phishing emails claiming to have a vaccine to online vendors selling counterfeit masks and hand sanitiser, confidence tricksters are exploring all the ways they can to separate people from their money.

 

NOTE: The UK government have an online form for those who are extremely vulnerable and wish to apply for additional support during this time. You can sign up from this link. 

 

These are just some of the tips for making the most of your time in isolation. If you have any you wish to share, be sure to leave a comment on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

 

Stay safe and be healthy.

macular degeneration amd

Primer on Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is when the part of the retina at the back of the eye called the macular undergoes changes. These changes can cause the appearance of sight problems, with central vision loss being the most common. 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs most often due to the passage of time. It most commonly develops in people over the age of 65, although there are cases where individuals in their forties or fifties will also experience a degradation of the macular. It can affect one eye, both eyes, or one then the other.

 

Macular Degeneration Risk Factors

However, age is only one of the factors that can influence the presence of AMD. Even though the exact cause of the condition has not been identified, there are a series of other elements that may increase the risk. These include:

  • Gender – Statistics show that more women develop AMD compared to men. It has been posited that this may be due to the fact that women tend to live longer than men and therefore have longer time in which to develop macular degeneration. 
  • Genetics – It has been found that families with multiple cases of AMD can pass the condition down to later generations, although this does not always happen. 
  • Lifestyle – A lack of exercise and high blood pressure can put the body at risk of macular degeneration, so living a healthy lifestyle is recommended to minimise danger. This includes ensuring that a healthy diet is maintained as deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals are thought to contribute to the development of AMD.
  • Smoking – This activity will generally increase risk of age-related macular degeneration.
  • Sunlight – There have been studies that suggest prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light can increase the chance of developing macular degeneration. Although there is not conclusive evidence to back this up, the benefits of shielding eyes from UV light have been proven. 

There are 2 main types of age-related macular degeneration: wet and dry.

Dry AMD occurs as the macula begins to thin due to retinal cell death and drusen, small nodes of protein, start to form. This develops slowly over time and the individual will gradually experience diminished central vision. Dry AMD will only ever affect central vision, leaving peripheral vision intact. This means that those with this condition will never suffer complete vision loss from dry AMD.

Wet AMD, on the other hand, is regarded as the more serious of the two. It occurs when blood vessels grow into the macula, begin to leak fluid or bleed, and cause scarring. Wet AMD can happen quickly and cause visual problems to suddenly appear. Like dry AMD, complete sight loss is not possible from just wet AMD.

It is important to note that “wet” and “dry” do not refer to the hydration levels of the eyes. Instead they are used to describe what an optometrist sees when examining the macula. 

 

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration

Every individual’s condition will progress differently and which symptoms develop will vary from one to the other. Here are some of the most common symptoms for those with age-related macular degeneration. 

  • Dark spots or gaps in the centre.
  • Fading colours.
  • Blurriness.
  • Light sensitivity.
  • Straight lines may appear distorted.
  • Harder to make out details.  

 

Treatments and Cures for Macular Degeneration

The sad news is that there is currently no treatment method for dry AMD. There has been some studies that show increased intake of certain vitamins may be able to slow down the progression of dry AMD, however no way to completely prevent the condition has been found. 

There is better news for those with wet AMD. Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drugs can be injected into the eye to inhibit the formation of new blood vessels. Normally, a course of three injections is given over the period of three months, after which it is advised to have regular check ups to verify whether more will be needed. 

Although there is a high success rate for anti-VEGF treatment, there is a small possibility that the increased pressure in the eye resulting from the injection can cause retinal detachment. Infections can also occur but similarly the chance is very small. 

However, it must be noted that anti-VEGF injections can only stop the growth of new blood vessels. They will not be able to reverse any damage done by blood vessels that have already caused damage to the macula.