What has social detachment to do with retinal detachment?
At first sight (no pun intended) nothing, but if you look closer, these two can actually be connected in this corona-reality. Our government has summoned citizens to practice social distancing, and to keep 1.5-meter distance. Literally. And in the Netherlands you are not allowed to be together with more than three people (except households) at the same time, at the risk of a fine of €400. This even counts for birthdays and other parties. We have to get used to that for the foreseeing future, with an unknown effect on our social lives and potentially with the risk on social detachment, especially for some of the elderly in our community.
Because of the social-distancing-rule of minimal 1.5 meter between individuals in the Netherlands, optical practices and outlets are closing one after the other. Contact lens appointments are cancelled and replaced by telephonic consults where needed. Only urgent care is face-to-face. While this makes total sense, to reduce interaction between individuals to an absolute minimum, it is important to make sure eye care practitioners are accessible and attainable for emergency calls and for questions and concerns.
Signs & Symptoms of a Retinal Detachment
In ophthalmic centres in my country, urgent care continues ‘as usual’ and this includes intravitreal injections such as for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). But ophthalmologists worry most about patients with new symptoms. For some of these, including retinal detachment, it means that if they are seen too late by the specialist, it may resort in permanent loss of vision. This is especially true when symptoms are pain free. And this is exactly the case with a retinal detachment. Therefore individuals, and especially (high) myopes, need to be informed about the signs and symptoms of a retinal detachment.
A retinal detachment describes an emergency situation in the posterior layer of tissue at the back of the eye (the retina) which pulls away from its normal position. The longer retinal detachment goes untreated, the greater the risk of permanent vision loss in the affected eye. Warning signs of retinal detachment may include: the sudden appearance of many floaters — tiny specks that seem to drift through your field of vision, flashes of light in one or both eyes, sudden blurred vision, gradually reduced side (peripheral) vision or a curtain-like shadow over your visual field.
Two Worlds Collide
And this is where the ‘two worlds collide’, not directly maybe – but they do so indirectly. Myopes are at higher risk for retinal detachment. And we have to make sure the corona-crisis doesn’t catalyse myopia development in kids. At the same time individuals at risk should continue to have good and fast access to urgent care. So proper education in this department, especially towards patients at risk, seems essential. As is taking care of a proportion of the elderly population that could suffer from social detachment.