Optometrists provide almost 80% of the primary eye care in the United States.
They do much more than simply perform eye exams and prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. They are trained to detect vision problems, eye diseases and disorders, and other health problems, including abnormal blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
Our article delves into the role optometrists and other eye specialists play in the COVID-19 response, essential vs. non-essential eye care, what constitutes an eye emergency, and much more.
Is Eye Care Essential During a Pandemic?
Yes! Eyecare is recognized as an essential service under local, state, and federal regulations.
Doctors of optometry provide you with proper eye care. This is by far the most important precautionary measure that protects the vision. Hence access to those doctors is a priority.
Optometrists treated over 206,000 patients at the height of the lockdown in March, thereby preserving precious resources for the vulnerable.
The Role of an Optometrist
Apart from prescribing glasses or contact lenses, an optometrist can treat the following eye conditions:
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
- Retinal Disorders
- Color Blindness
- Related Health Issues
Common Eye Problems & Diseases
The leading cause of blindness in the United States is age-related health problems. Here are the top common eye problems you may want to watch out for:
- Refractive Errors
- Diabetic Retinopathy
- Dry Eyes
Essential vs. Non-Essential Eye Care
Here is a list of services that may constitute essential and non-essential.
Essential services include urgent care treatment for conditions that prevent your patients from carrying out their daily activities.
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Vision loss
- Eye trauma
- Flashes or floating objects (microscopic collagen fibers within the vitreous) in the eyes
- Lost or broken eyewear
- Contact lens-related pain
- Severe or recurring headaches
- Light sensitivity
- Drooping eyelid
Non-essential, otherwise called routine, doesn’t prevent a patient from going about his/her normal activities.
- Routine eye tests
- First-time fitting for contact lenses
However, you may want to reach out to your physicians with your concerns about eye health. They may still be able to do a virtual eye check-up/telehealth and give you priority treatment if necessary.
If you are unable to reach them, just leave them a message, and they will get back to you.
Are Services of Doctors of Optometry Considered Essential?
Yes! Optometrists are providers of essential services. However, you should visit only if you are facing vision loss and/or painful eye conditions. Any other can be considered as non-essential services and doesn’t require an ophthalmic assessment, at least not right now.
You may also place your health care provider under unnecessary burden due to the reduced resources.
What Is Considered Routine Eye Care?
Routine eye care, otherwise called non-essential eye care, is defined as a visit to the doctor to screen the patients’ eyes for vision, eye disease, and/or updating prescription glasses. It gives a definite diagnosis as to whether you are nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatic.
If your prescription is more than a year old, you are eligible for a routine eye test.
In case you have an expired prescription and cannot leave your home, you may be eligible for an emergency pair of temporary glasses.
Tests and Procedures in a Normal Eye Exam
Normal eye care includes painless exams to ensure that your eyes are healthy and your prescription is up to date (if wearing glasses).
An optometrist is often the first line of defense against eye disorders. During a visit, he/she may perform the following tests:
Pre-exam tests: Basic tests including color sensitivity test, peripheral vision test, glaucoma test, and a cover test
Pupillary reactions: The doctor checks your pupil’s response to light.
Slit Lamp Test: The doctor shines a vertical bar of light in your eyes to magnify your eye’s surface and to examine it for abnormalities.
Visual acuity and refraction: You may have to read a chart filled with letters and numbers to determine your prescription.
Pupil Dilation: Your doctor dilates your pupil with eye drops to enlarge your pupils, giving him/her a clear picture of your eyes.
Which Doctor Should I See for a Routine Eye Care?
For routine eye care, consult with an optometrist first and foremost. He/she will refer you to a specialist or an ophthalmologist for additional treatment.
Healthy Tips for Routine Eye Care
Healthy eyes are required for the well-being of your mind and body. Here are a few tips you can follow to protect your eyes.
- Eat plenty of leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
- Wear protective eyewear (such as safety glasses or goggles) when working in construction, factories, woodworking/metalworking or home improvement projects.
- Wash your hands regularly throughout the day, especially before meals and after using the restroom.
- Get regular eye exams.
- Drink 2-3 liters of water daily.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule when working on computers.
- Avoid tobacco use and heavy drinking of alcohol.
- Exercise regularly and help prevent obesity-related issues such as diabetes, high cholesterol, abnormal blood pressure, fatigue, etc.
What Constitutes Emergency Eye Care?
Emergency eye care, otherwise called urgent visits, refers to medical visits where there is a risk of vision loss, including discomfort and other symptoms that interfere with the daily routine.
Examples of an Eye Emergency
- Acute Red Eyes
- Flashes of Light
- Sudden Changes in Vision
- Vision Loss
- Eye Trauma
Safety Practices for Optometrists According to the CDC
While every state has its protocols, optometry offices are required to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s latest guidance as well as the local, state, and federal directives regarding the prevention measure and the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
And as such, the safety practices include:
- Strict protocols for cleaning and sterilization
- Maintaining social and physical distancing
- Manage patient flow
- Taking the temperature of the patient upon arrival
- Limiting the number of guests and patients
- Ensuring everyone wears a mask and/or gloves
Watch out for COVID-19 updates since the situation is fluid with the ongoing pandemic. While the situation is improving in 2021 due to millions getting vaccinated, the threat is far from over.
Is it Safe to Wear Contact Lenses During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
According to the guidance issued by the American Optometric Association (AOA) regarding essential care, it is safe to wear your contacts; It still remains a safe and effective form of vision correction. However, patients should adhere to proper eye health care when wearing contact lenses.
- While the lens itself will not give you Coronavirus, you may want to practice proper hygiene to avoid transmission.
- Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or sanitizer with 70% alcohol.
- Disinfect the lens according to the instructions given by your optometrist.
- Do not wear contacts if you are experiencing any cold and/or flu-like symptoms.
While we settle in a new normal, the doctors’ primary goal remains the same: to provide proper eye care and protection. Hence it is important that you work along with your doctor, follow safety practices to ensure that everyone stays protected, especially in the Covid-19 pandemic era.
Ensure that you reach out ahead and check with your medical providers if they are open. Many doctors are on leave due to dwindling patients. Since 1970, Tucson Optometry Clinic has been serving Tucson with the highest level of eye care. If you have any of the eye conditions mentioned earlier in this article or would like to schedule a routine eye exam, please contact us today.
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