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The recent pandemic of coronavirus 2019 now has taken the whole world by its throat (quite literally!) Most countries are currently observing a lockdown scenario to prevent the spread of COVID-19 around them. In these dire times, any form of severe health condition is a probable cause of lowering the body’s immunity and macular degeneration patients during COVID-19 has the potential candidate in the list!

What is Macular Degeneration?

Macular degeneration (MD) is an eye disorder that causes damage to the macular region of the eye, eventually leading to possible blindness. Macula is the central and the most sensitive portion of the retina, giving us the ability to visualize things in high resolution. MD usually manifests in people over the age of 60 and progresses at a different pace depending on the individual’s health.

What are the types of Macular Degeneration?

MD is broadly categorized into Wet MD and Dry MD. Wet MD is more severe and generates new blood vessels beneath the retina. The leaking of blood and fluid from these blood vessels causes serious damage to the retina and should be treated urgently. Dry MD progression is slower than the Wet MD. It leads to an accumulation of yellow spots in the macular region due to deteriorating tissues, and can eventually lead to blindness.

Is Macular Degeneration a serious complication for COVID-19?

There is no definite answer to that but this is what every patient should keep in mind: If you have any flu-related symptoms or fall in the high-risk category of being elderly and suffering from cardiovascular/kidney/respiratory disorders, please try to stay in quarantine with proper precautions to restrict COVID-19 infection.

As an individual complication, although there is no report of MD being responsible for making a patient COVID-19 prone,a reduced immunity and body weakness, which comes along with this disorder, may push the patients towards a higher risk of COVID-19.

What points should be kept in mind while staying home?

First and foremost, patients with MD should maintain really good hygiene in their houses besides following preventive measures of using sanitizers and masks.

Following that, MD patients can use the Amsler Grid to monitor their macular health at least once a week in case they cannot visit their eye doctors.

Last but not the least, any change in the vision, maybe blur or spots, should be cautiously reported to experienced eye care specialists.

Any specific medications to omit or add during this COVID-19 situation?

If the doctor advises supplements with lutein and zeaxanthin, MD patients can continue with them besides practicing a healthy-diet fit for their eyes. But if MD patients have been prescribed Zinc medications or supplements for eye health, it is better to avoid zinc lozenges for cold or flu prevention, thus avoiding any chance of zinc toxicity.

If an MD patient has wet AMD and has to receive monthly eye injections, how should they tackle this COVID-19 lockdown? 

As these injections should be routinely taken and we are all living in a time of crisis due to the lockdown, Macular Degeneration Patients During COVID-19 have to rely on special clinics that are making accommodations for such high-risk cases. To protect themselves and others, these patients should take utmost precautions of social distancing even when setting up a doctor-patient meeting for their injections.

As macular degeneration treatments with anti-VEGF injections and Zinc medications may hamper COVID-19 precautions and treatment, it is always better to take the safer route from the beginning. Stem cell therapy has become quite a successful way of treating macular degeneration and the owing to its immunomodulatory and regenerative potential, MD treatment with stem cell therapy can further fight COVID-19 infection without any conventional drug candidates.