Coronavirus: Information for glaucoma patients

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting all NHS services, and eye services are no exception.

If the situation is causing you stress or anxiety, we’re here to support you.  We know that as a nation, we need to support the NHS at this time and we understand there will be sacrifices, but we also know that this isn’t always easy to cope with.  You don’t need to cope alone.  If you’d like to talk to someone just  call our glaucoma helpline on 01233 64 81 70 from Monday to Friday, 9:30am – 5:00pm.

So how are hospital glaucoma services being affected by coronavirus?

Hospitals across the UK have started deferring all routine work.  This includes outpatient appointments and surgery.

OUTPATIENTS: If you’re  a glaucoma outpatient, your medical record will probably be assessed, by the clinical team and unfortunately only the most urgent cases will be seen.  Unless you’re assessed as having a very high risk of sight loss within months, the hospital will probably contact you to DEFER your appointment.  This is expected to be the case for virtual or optometrist-led clinics too.

NEW PATIENTS: It’s likely that only those at very high risk of sight loss within months will be seen at the hospital. People with very high intraocular pressure, sudden visual loss or acute angle closure are likely to be treated as ‘urgent’, but all other cases will probably be deferred.  This is necessary in order to ensure that the most critical cases can be treated using limited resources.

SURGERY: We expect that almost all glaucoma surgery WILL BE DEFERRED unless it falls into the new definition of urgent, i.e. only patients with a very high risk of  sight loss within months, of a kind that seriously threatens quality of life.

If you were due to have surgery in the coming weeks or months, your hospital will probably be in touch.  It may be that a change in your eye drop regime may be introduced as a satisfactory temporary solution, and we hope eye clinic staff would discuss this with you.  We understand this will be frustrating and unsettling for people who may have already waited many months for surgery, but these are unprecedented circumstances and we need to ensure NHS staff are available to help deal with the current emergency situation, as well as preventing unnecessary visits to hospital.

GETTING IN TOUCH

Eye clinics will be trying to contact patients informing them of the situation with their treatment.  If you are called in for treatment and feel you are high risk and don’t want to go to the hospital in person, you can ask for a telephone consultation.  But please remember that we’re in a period of unprecedented demand on NHS services, and services at different hospitals will vary.

Please don’t go to the hospital unless you have a confirmed appointment.  You may expose yourself, doctors and other hospital staff to coronavirus.

COMMUNITY OPTOMETRY

Routine community eye health checks are likely to be cancelled, and community optometrists will probably be available for emergency care only.  If your appointment has been cancelled, your optometrist will contact you and provide you with information about when a future appointment might take place.  Realistically this could be some months away.

While appointments are being deferred, they aren’t being cancelled forever. It’s important that you are seen again in clinic when things improve, so if you haven’t heard from the hospital once the crisis has passed,  you may wish to contact the hospital to check you’re still in the system.

In these difficult times, good eye drop use is absolutely essential in maintaining your sight. Please remember to use your drops regularly, and as prescribed by your doctor.

You can find more help here

https://www.glaucoma-association.com/about-glaucoma/treatments/eye-drops

And finally, some topical advice for those who wear glasses or contact lenses.

  • It’s best to stick to soap and water when washing your hands to administer eye drops or handle contact lenses, rather than using hand sanitiser.
  • Anti-bacterial hand sanitiser will help to rid your glasses of potentially harmful surface particles, but do avoid contact with the lenses, because some ingredients may affect the quality of the lens’ surface. It’s also likely to smear or leave streaks on your lenses unless properly rinsed and dried.
  • Anti-bacterial hand sanitisers are likely to contain alcohol, so it’s important to avoid contact with the eyes as it may cause irritation. To help avoid this, use a glasses cleaning liquid or a diluted pH neutral hand wash”.