Amid the spread of COVID-19, many states have taken appropriate precautionary measures provided by professional organizations in their operating procedures. Some may have even shut down temporarily, resulting in doctor’s offices being closed and elective surgeries being canceled. While it may have initially seemed challenging and potentially risky to visit your eye doctor over the past few months, now that states and clinical practices are reopening armed with more information about how to stay safe, people can be confident going back to their eye doctor’s office. If you have noticed any changes in your vision (possibly due to the progression of your keratoconus) or if you had to postpone your cross-linking procedure, it’s important to make an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as you can.
Non-emergency procedures, such as FDA-approved cross-linking, continue to ramp up across certain areas of the country. However, if you live in an area where states are bringing stricter precautions back into place, connect with your eye doctor or someone at the practice to see if any new changes have been implemented or if they are planning any cancellations. As always, make sure you are doing what is safe for you in your community!
If you are planning to head into the doctor’s office soon, keep reading for some precautions you can take and examples of questions you should be asking to feel safe in advance of your visit.
Connect with Your Doctor’s Office
One way to ease your mind is to connect with your doctor’s office about what measures they are taking to ensure your safety. Ophthalmologists, like all medical professionals, will be following strict hygiene and disinfection guidelines to protect your health. These guidelines and precautions will likely include making sure staff are symptom-free, cleaning all equipment with disinfectant regularly and in between patients, limiting office entry and exit points, and limiting the occupancy of the waiting room.
If you have any questions or concerns about visiting your eye doctor, consider calling the practice to ease any feelings of uncertainty and ask the following questions:
- What protective equipment will physicians, employees, and other patients be wearing?
- What precautions have the practice implemented and how have they improved sanitation/cleaning?
- What happens when I arrive for my appointment? Will I need to wait outside or in my car?
- Can I bring someone with me to my appointment?
- Will my temperature be checked?
- Will I need to wear a mask during the appointment/procedure?
- What are some changes I can expect during my appointment/procedure?
Grab Your Favorite Mask
Just like going to the grocery store, your eye doctor will likely require you to wear a mask before and during your appointment, and at this point, it’s likely you have a favorite mask. Maybe it’s your favorite color, a beloved sports team, or one that happens to fit perfectly on your face and doesn’t constantly fall down or need to be adjusted. Making sure you’re comfortable in your mask can help you feel confident going into your appointment, knowing you will be wearing it for a long period of time. If you happen to wear glasses, we know it can also be uncomfortable when they fog up while wearing your mask. To avoid touching your mask or face constantly during the appointment, follow these steps on how to wear a face mask without fogging your glasses.
For some extra precautions, you may have even purchased a face shield. It is important to note that shields should not replace face masks, but can be used as an added layer of protection. If you have a face shield, some practices may also require you to wear a mask underneath during your appointment, especially if you need to remove the shield for testing purposes or to receive a specific procedure.
You should always be your own advocate when it comes to your health. While your doctor’s office will be able to tell you all about the precautions they are taking, there are other things you can do ahead of your appointment to ensure that you are prepared and are limiting potential exposure. Think about the following as you prepare for your next visit:
- Do your research: If you know someone who has recently gone to the eye doctor, ask about their experience. Also, you can search your doctor’s website to see if it details its precautionary measures.
- Stay home if you’re sick (or may have been exposed): If you’re feeling sick or have been in contact with someone who has recently had the virus, postpone your appointment.
- Wash your hands: It’s important to wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water. In addition, always follow good contact lens hygiene and avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
- Practice safe social distancing: Stay six feet away when possible. If others are waiting for an appointment near you, make sure to distance yourself or remain in your car. And always wear a mask!
Knowing what to expect in advance of your next appointment can help ease any confusion or worries and allow you to remain your best, confident self as you walk through the door. However, if you are truly concerned about being exposed to COVID-19, connect with your doctor to see if they do telemedicine appointments or ask about rescheduling your cross-linking treatment. If you do have to postpone or reschedule, it’s important to ensure there will not be any potential long-term consequences with your overall eye health.
Stay safe and contact your physician if you have any questions in advance of scheduling your next appointment. For more information on keratoconus and general eye health, make sure to follow Living with KC on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.