At some point during the current COVID-19 pandemic, every person has probably asked themselves “Is this worth the risk?” when deciding whether or not to leave their home. If you live in an area that’s beginning to reopen and are constantly debating if you should meet up with family and/or friends responsibly, send your children to in-person learning, or visit a doctor’s office, you may be experiencing decision fatigue. While staying home can help stop the spread of the virus and keep you and your family safe, it may not be so black and white when it comes to your health. This is especially true if you’re living with a chronic or progressive condition.
If you or a loved one is living with keratoconus, the condition may be progressing and your vision might be getting worse. Do the benefits of updating your lens prescription outweigh the potential risk of contracting COVID-19? Is it better in the long run for you to go in for a routine eye exam or to get FDA-approved cross-linking? Keep reading for some warning signs that it may be time to see your eye doctor.
Keratoconus Is a Progressive Condition
Keratoconus is a progressive condition that worsens over time, so early diagnosis is critical. If you’re living with this condition, the cornea weakens and thins, causing the development of a cone-like bulge and optical irregularity of the cornea. Unfortunately, if left untreated, keratoconus can result in significant visual loss and may lead to a corneal transplant in severe cases. You should also be aware of the genetic component. Research has shown that people with a parent, sibling, or child who has keratoconus have a 15 to 67 times higher risk in developing keratoconus when compared to people with no affected relatives. So, if there is a family history of keratoconus, you should be getting your eyes checked regularly. Don’t let decision fatigue get in your way. You should call your eye doctor if you notice changes in your vision!
Signs and Symptoms to Watch For
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with keratoconus or are living with other vision issues, there are specific signs or symptoms to look out for that may suggest your condition is progressing. Research has shown that signs & symptoms of keratoconus usually first appear in the late teens and early twenties.
If you notice any of the below signs, you may want to make an appointment with your eye doctor sooner rather than later:
When to See a Doctor About Your Eye Health
At the beginning of the pandemic, it was understandable if you skipped your eye appointment. Either you decided it was best for your health, or your local practice had shut its doors temporarily and you didn’t have a choice. Now, practices are implementing necessary precautions to make your appointment as safe as possible, so you can be comfortable and confident heading back to the doctor’s office. While it is recommended that people without vision issues receive an eye exam approximately every two years, depending on your age, ethnicity, and whether or not you are experiencing any symptoms or are living with a condition that has already been diagnosed, you many need to have exams more frequently.
If you are long overdue for an eye exam, check to see if your local practice is accepting appointments and make one if it is safe to do so. If you have noticed any dramatic changes in your vision or have experienced a recent eye injury, make an appointment as soon as possible to avoid any further complications or permanent damage. Some doctors may also be accepting telehealth video appointments if you are more comfortable connecting with your eye doctor that way first.
The Need for Surgical Interventions
If your vision has changed or your keratoconus has progressed over the last few months, you may have noticed that your lenses are no longer effective at correcting your vision. It may be necessary to make an appointment with your doctor to update your prescription and discuss available treatment options. While lenses may help improve vision for those with progressive keratoconus, they do not treat the condition, only the symptoms. In order to slow or halt the progression of keratoconus, surgical intervention, such as FDA-approved corneal cross-linking is recommended.
FDA-approved corneal cross-linking is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that takes about an hour. However, you should prepare to be at the office for approximately two hours to allow sufficient time for preparation and recovery before returning home. This procedure is clinically proven to limit the progression of this sight-threatening disease, and if your keratoconus is indeed progressing, you may need to make your eye health a priority and consider receiving this treatment despite the current pandemic.
Make sure you and your loved ones monitor your eye health for any changes, no matter how minor those changes might be. Also, don’t avoid the eye doctor if you have a reason to go there or there is an emergency.
If you do decide to visit family or friends, attend a doctor’s appointment, or visit a store, make sure you’re following the latest guidance from the CDC and all state, local, and organizational guidelines to reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19. Always wear a mask when you leave the house, practice social distancing, when possible, and stay home if you’re experiencing any symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has been exposed.