Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in people over 50. AMD is also recognised as a Prescribed Minimum Benefit (PMB) condition, which compels South African medical schemes to fund its treatment.
Dr Kok said that the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns had been especially difficult for the blind and vision-impaired, particularly because access to eyecare was limited, due to limited mobility during lockdown or fears of visiting doctors and healthcare facilities.
“Many ageing patients with wet age-related macular degeneration need a regular injection into the eye to combat vision loss. Skipping these treatments could lead to serious and irreversible loss of vision. Missing medical treatments could also affect people with diabetes which could lead to serious complications including damage to the retina.
“Limited access to eyecare during lockdown, combined with economic hardship in the aftermath of the lockdown, means that many patients that require routine follow-up and chronic treatments for retinal conditions have not been able to get the necessary, regular care. This will most likely pose challenges in the coming weeks and months for optimising and maintaining visual outcomes in these patients,” he said.
Retina South Africa, a patient advocacy organisation, found that the bans on alcohol sales during lockdown “led to the serious and unexpected consequence of desperate individuals drinking hand sanitiser”. The poisonous alcohols in hand sanitiser, such as methanol or isopropyl alcohol, can cause serious damage to the optic nerve, blindness or even death.
For more information go to: www.retinasa.org.za