2020 has been a year like no other. For those needing medical treatments, there have been delays and cancellations across the NHS, with hospitals pushed to their full capacity as they work so hard to fight the Covid-19 virus.
For those with eye health problems, across the UK there were 460,000 waiting for treatment in August and 59 per cent having waited more than 18 weeks for treatment. (Reference NHS England)
All of these reasons have really enthused the experts at Optegra hospital group to work closely with the NHS to continue to provide sight-saving eye treatments to patients in need, all the way through lockdown.
From March onwards, patients with Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) were contacted to reassure them that their treatment would and should continue throughout lockdown – with changes made at the hospitals to keep every single patient and member of staff safe.
AMD is a leading cause of visual impairment in the UK. As we get older, the macula (the central part of the retina responsible for detailed vision) can begin to break down, causing blurred vision. The macula allows us to see fine detail for activities such as reading, recognising faces, watching television and driving. It also helps us to see colour.
The earliest sign of macular degeneration is often the appearance of small yellow deposits called drusen, which form under the retina. These are accumulated waste products which, as they get larger, stop the flow of nutrients to the retina and cause the layer of supporting cells beneath it to become very thin. When cells in this layer die, the overlying macula degenerates and loses its visual function.
There are two main types of AMD: dry and wet. The extent of the degeneration may be different in each eye and may not progress at the same rate.
Consultant ophthalmic surgeon, Mr. Sajjad Mahmood at Optegra Eye Hospital Manchester said: “Across Optegra we are committed to maintaining injection treatments for wet AMD – both NHS and private – even during periods of lockdown it is essential that treatment continues. Without it, vision will deteriorate often irreversibly so it is vital to save the sight that our patients have.”
One patient who has benefitted from this ongoing treatment is 88-year-old Eva Miller from Leyland in Lancashire.
With very poor vision in one eye, she has injections for AMD in her second eye to prevent that vision deteriorating. She has been travelling to Optegra Manchester for five years and was pleased to be able to keep getting the treatment she needed during lockdown.
She says: “I have had about 25 injections in my eye over the years. There is no pain or discomfort, as I always ask the nurses to give me plenty of anaesthetic drops!
“Sometimes I feel a little bit of pressure but it is nothing to worry about.
“The injections were once a month at first, but now I have them every three months. I was worried when lockdown started in March, but Optegra got in touch to say the treatment would continue. They have reduced the appointment duration time significantly so I am not in the hospital too long, and I wear my mask and they are very careful with the coronavirus. I am very glad I could carry on with treatment and feel very safe at the hospital.”
Optegra has made a series of changes across all of its seven UK hospitals to keep patients and staff safe during the pandemic. These steps include:
- Questionnaire ahead of arrival to check there are no symptoms
- Temperature check on arrival
- Provision of face masks, hand sanitizer and apron
- Social distancing throughout the hospital
- Tight appointment times so limited numbers of patients within the hospital at any one time
- Patient only in the building, unless assistance is needed – friends/family asked to wait in their cars
- Extensive and thorough cleaning and sanitization of all equipment between patients
- Optegra is also offering virtual consultations where suitable to reduce physical time spent at the hospital
To find out about AMD treatment for yourself or a family member or friend, please contact Optegra here.