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Mar 24, 2020

Information about COVID-19 and Your Eye Health

chalk board with question mark

We understand this time of uncertainty may be confusing. We have prepared answers to some questions you may have about your eye health during these times.

Different levels of government and professional associations have made recommendations regarding healthcare practices in response to COVID-19. There may be different recommendations depending on your personal eye health, health care provider, or where you live.

This information is not intended to replace medical advice. You should contact your eye care provider if you have concerns about your eye health.

Covid information and recommendations are changing rapidly. Please check back on our website for updates to this information.

Do you have questions? Call or email our health information line:

Phone: 1.888.626.2995
Email: healthinfo@fightingblindness.ca

Frequently Asked Questions

How will COVID-19 affect my routine eye exam?
Currently, many eye exams and appointments are being delayed or temporarily cancelled to protect the health and safety of patients. As the government eases some restrictions on services, you may receive a call from your doctor’s office to reschedule your appointment. Please be patient as there may be many appointments to reschedule.

Is it safe that my eye appointment was cancelled? Will cancelling my appointment affect my eyesight?
Your doctor does not want you to lose vision while you are waiting for your next appointment. If you develop any new or worsening symptoms, please call your doctor. If your doctor’s office is unable to address your concerns, consider going to the emergency room. Please remember that you may expose yourself to COVID-19 whenever you leave your home.

My eye appointment has been rescheduled, but I am nervous to visit the clinic. What can I expect?
If you are scheduled for an in-person appointment, it means the clinic is ready to open and is complying with the guidelines for opening safely. These guidelines have been developed to ensure your safety and the safety of others in the clinic. Contact your doctor’s office to find out what is required by you during your appointment. To learn more about what you may see when you go to your appointment, watch FBC’s View Point webinar with Dr. Choudry on eye care during Covid-19.

What if I have an eye emergency?
Follow the same protocol for health emergencies. Call your doctor’s office to schedule an emergency appointment. You should call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room if you have an emergency and cannot wait to see your eye doctor.

If I get COVID-19, will my eyesight be affected?
COVID-19 is a form of coronavirus that causes respiratory symptoms (access detailed symptom information). Several cases of conjunctivitis (pink eye) have been reported.

NOTE: If you are experiencing any symptoms relating to COVID-19, call your local public health authority. If you experience any symptoms of sight loss, call your eye doctor’s office.

What can I do to protect my eyesight during this time?

  • Follow the guidelines from Health Canada to protect yourself and others.
  • If you require eye drops, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before you administer them.
  • If you are taking medication for your eyes, make sure you have enough medication to last you a 14-day period of isolation.
  • If you wear contact lenses, try to use your glasses for the next little while. Contact lens wearers tend to touch their eyes more often, which can contribute to the risk of contracting COVID-19.

What can I do to protect my eyesight during this time?
Whether you have an eye disease or not, here are things you can do to protect your eye health:

  • Follow the guidelines from Health Canada to protect yourself and others.
  • If you require eye drops, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before you administer them.
  • If you are taking medication for your eyes, make sure you have enough medication to last you a 14-day period of isolation.
  • If you wear contact lenses, try use your glasses for the next little while. Contact lens wearers tend to touch their face and eyes more often, which can contribute to the risk of contracting COVID-19.

What if I am participating in a clinical trial? Is it still running?
Many clinical trials have been put on pause, until a reassessment is possible. If you are currently participating in a clinical trial and you have not received information about the status, reach out to your trial coordinator.
If you have signed up for a clinical trial but have not yet started your treatment, it is possible your start date may be delayed. Check with your coordinator to find out more.

How long will this current situation last?
We are not sure how long this situation will last. The different levels of government are working very hard to prevent mass transmission of COVID-19 to keep Canadians healthy and support our healthcare system. Keep up to date with statements from our government.
For more information regarding the new protocols for eye health appointments, please visit the Canadian Ophthalmological Society’s website.

What if I get sick and need assistance?
The recommendation from Health Canada is if you become sick with COVID-19 but are not critically ill, get tested, stay home and self-isolate until your symptoms are completely gone. Additionally, call your local public health authority or doctor’s office to find out what to do.

There is an online assessment tool to help guide you to the appropriate resources. Leave home only if you need medical attention. If you need medical attention do not use public transportation. Call a taxi or your local public health to find out how to get to a medical centre. Some accessibility services will be affected in the next few months. Access COVID-19 Health Canada Updates. 

Where can I go for support?
CNIB has set up a calendar of virtual webinars to support the community in five areas: live, play, work, learn, and tech. Go to their website to learn more and sign up.

Tips to Help You Practice Social Distancing

  • Grocery shop online or select a store pickup option. Prepare your order in advance to ensure you get a delivery/pickup time that works for you.
  • If you must go to a store, avoid going during peak hours. It is recommended that you wear a non-medical mask with at least 2 layers of fabric when you cannot distance yourself from others by at least 2 meters.
  • Avoid touching your face while out and sanitize your hands after exiting stores (if this is available to you).
  • Avoid touching your personal belongings while out. If you must touch your belongings (i.e. wallet, keys), wipe them down when you return home and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds immediately upon returning home.
  • Stock essential items that could keep for a few months. For example; canned foods, frozen vegetables, dried grains, essential household supplies, and essential medical supplies in case you or a household member get sick. Check out the recommended list from Health Canada.
  • Ask your doctor to refill your prescriptions early to avoid going to the pharmacy if you become ill. You may not be able to get larger quantities of your prescription filled as pharmacies manage medication quantities to prevent shortages.
  • If you cannot go out to get your prescription medication, talk to your pharmacist about home delivery.
  • Explore new ways of getting active at home (exercise videos, yoga, skipping, and more). It is recommended that you stand up and move every 60-90 minutes.
  • Pass the time with music, podcasts, movies, or favourite television shows.
  • Call friends (and attempt to keep COVID-19 off the topic list).
  • Learn a new hobby that does not require many new materials.

For information about the status of COVID-19 in Canada including your province and city, please refer to federal, provincial, and local government websites.

Helpful Links

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This article was last updated on July 15th, 2020. It was written by Shari Shaw, MHSc., Health Information Officer at Fighting Blindness Canada and reviewed by Deepa Yoganathan, MD FRCSC.

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