With continuing spikes in Coronavirus, you may wonder if it is safe to go back to the eye doctor.
Since the arrival of the virus in 2020, plenty of people have skipped regular medical appointments and screenings for fear of exposure and spread ofCOVID-19.
While it’s wise to be cautious during this extraordinary time, it’s also important to not neglect routine medical appointments and other health priorities, whether with your primary care physician, dentist, or eye doctor. Regular check-ups ensure that serious conditions are spotted early, and treatment is begun before too much damage has occurred.
This is especially true for eye exams.
“Because many serious eye conditions begin without a noticeable change in vision, it’s vital to have a regular, dilated eye exam every year” says Dr. S. Rana, board certified ophthalmologist with St Lucie Eye in Port St Lucie, FL. “With a dilated exam, we can detect even subtle changes to the back of the eye that may need further examination.”
For adults over the age of 40, regular eye exams are the best way to ensure you don’t lose vision to common age-related conditions like glaucoma. Even if you are under age 40, regular exams are still important.
Eyesight can change significantly in a year’s time and if you need glasses or contacts, it’s essential to keep an up-to-date prescription. Having an accurate prescription doesn’t just help you see better, but helps minimize eye strain, a common malady with the increased use of screen time during the pandemic.
Eye strain can lead to headaches, fatigue, dry eyes, and other undesirable symptoms. An updated prescription can have a hugely beneficial effect on your overall health by helping you see better and easing the discomfort of continual eye strain.
When is the best time to schedule an eye exam?
The best time for an eye exam is when you don’t feel rushed.
Remember that a comprehensive eye exam takes time; typically 60-90 minutes. Some of this time is for dilation drops to fully take effect. The remaining time is for refraction testing, 3-D imaging and ultrasounds of the eye, and finally, meeting with the doctor. Additional testing can also be required based on initial findings.
After your exam, you may have difficulty focusing and reading due to the dilation drops. Dilation may also make your eyes sensitive to light and glare for several hours. For people who work, this can mean the best appointment time is mid-to-late afternoon, so they do not have to return to work tasks as dilation drops wear off.
But sometimes scheduling can be more urgent. See your ophthalmologist right away if you sudden notice changes to your vision or have a condition that needs regular treatment.
- Macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy may require regular eye injections.
- Changes in vision (blurry, wavy, blank or dark spots in your field of vision).
- Eye injury or scratches, even if it seems minor.
- Appearance of new floaters or flashes in your vision.
- Sudden loss of vision.
- Red eye or eye pain, especially if associated with headache, nausea or vomiting.
Do I still need to wear a mask at the eye doctor?
Eye care practices all over the country have altered their procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Most require masks for patients and staff, and many have reduced the number of people in waiting areas. Some have eliminated waiting rooms altogether by having patients wait outside or in their vehicles.
At St Lucie Eye, masking is still required in our Port St Lucie and Fort Pierce offices. Patients are asked to always bring and wear a mask during their appointment. A disposable mask can be provided if you do not have one. Our staff members also wear masks.
After patients go through screening and check-in, they are asked to wait in their vehicle or in the socially distanced waiting room.
Even before the pandemic, examination rooms and equipment have always been sanitized regularly. Eyes are particularly vulnerable to bacteria, so we have always been careful to thoroughly disinfect any instruments used for your exam. All these practices ensure that patients and staff remain safe.
Having an eye exam is one of the safer public activities you can experience during this time of COVID-19, with reduced waiting room activity, sanitization practices, and vigilant staff members.
Need a good eye doctor?
The physicians at St Lucie Eye are comprehensive ophthalmologists, trained to manage all aspects of your eye health. If additional treatment or consultation is needed, they also have retina and cornea specialists on staff. For more information, visit the CONTACT US page.
Sources: American Academy of Ophthalmology; American Optometric Association; National Eye Institute/National Institute of Health