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Eye care during a pandemic: an ophthalmologist shared tips

In early June, I received a text message on my phone inviting me to the Bronx Eye Associate for an eyesight test. Such sms come to me once every six months, but now I was even a little surprised - over the past three months I managed to get used to the fact that life has changed in many ways, one might say, stopped.

Photo: Shutterstock

The large lobby of the Bronx Eye Associate office was unusually crowded. However, everything worked smoothly. The chairs were positioned in such a way that patients could easily maintain social distance. Registration of those who came up, calls for examination and consultation with doctors were clear.

In the office of Dr. Eleanor Orloff, I noticed a new poster (six months ago there was a different one) and could not resist asking:

- Have you posted a new poster? Summer problems, ultraviolet.

The doctor smiled:

- Well, the problems are not only seasonal! - and continued to examine my pupils.

“There are probably many people who benefit from learning about seasonal vision problems; about whether there are any peculiarities of eye care during a pandemic, and in general to listen to the recommendations of the ophthalmologist, ”I decided and asked the doctor if she was ready to answer a few questions.

Dr. Eleanor Orloff agreed to answer my questions on her day off so as not to be distracted from the appointment.

1. Why do you now have so many more visitors than usual?

EO: This question cannot be answered unequivocally. There are several reasons. I will try to systematize them somehow.

To be honest, in the first days after the quarantine was announced, people were generally afraid to leave their homes - no one came to us without a critical need. But no one canceled the obligatory periodic visit to the ophthalmologist! So now both those who have come to our clinic for a scheduled examination (like yours, for example), and those who missed their turn in April / early May.

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Under current conditions, people first began to conduct most time at home. Many started to do things that they couldn’t reach before - paint something, nail down, plane… From habit, there are household injuries from the “something got into the eye” series, as well as allergies to paints, cleaning agents and detergents.

All of this has led to so many patients.

2. I noticed that there is another poster in your office now - not the one that was in December. It's about ultraviolet radiation. Is it important only in summer or all year round?

EO: It's great that you are reading our posters. We change them much more often than once every six months. After all, you do not always have time to give the patient all the necessary recommendations during the appointment. Therefore, by hanging one or the other posters, we try to draw attention to the necessary aspects.

As for ultraviolet radiation, it negatively affects vision all year round, so you must constantly remember this and protect your eyes from it. Moreover, in winter, ultraviolet radiation is more active than in summer!

3. The pandemic has radically changed our lives. Are there any new recommendations for eye care in the current environment?

EO: If you look from your, so to speak, patient's point of view, then we are not talking about any cardinal changes. Unless I can advise you to look more closely in the mirror - is there any redness in the eyes.

For the clinic staff - strong recommendations: redness of the conjunctiva must be documented in the examination log. For this is one of the first signs COVID-19. There were cases that it was we, ophthalmologists, who were the first to discover the disease in a patient, and tests confirmed this, but later.

4. What problems do patients most often address to you?

EO: I don't have at hand the exact statistics of the reasons for the appeal in percentage terms, but if without numbers, then these are allergies of different etymology, "Dry eyes" or tearing, blurred vision, eye injuries.

5. Are there vision problems or eye diseases that people do not even know about until they encounter them, but which can be avoided by following certain rules of eye hygiene?

EO: The first and foremost is glaucoma. Everything is fixable if you start treatment on time, at an early stage of the disease. A person himself may not know about the disease for a long time. Therefore, I urge everyone to periodically undergo an examination by an ophthalmologist.

6. How often should this examination be done?

EO: Preferably at least once a year. If a person has already become our patient, then we give him individual recommendations, including on the frequency of eye health checks. For example, we personally want to see you every six months. Some are invited once every four or three months, for others we adjust the treatment more often.

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7. What is your opinion about eyelid cosmetics, in particular about tattooing? Does it affect eye health?

EO (smiles): How can a woman relate to jewelry of any kind? Of course, positive! The eyelids are pulled up - it's beautiful! Eye color change is great!

But as a doctor, I must warn you: all this is great only if it is done in special clinics and by experienced professionals. For example, not every cosmetic surgeon can perform an eyelid lift operation, it must be a narrow specialist in the eyelid lift! Imagine that when tattooing your eyelids, you can be injected with a paint to which you are allergic, and it will appear not instantly, but after some time?

First, get a competent individual consultation from your ophthalmologist and only after that make a decision on surgical correction of what does not suit you in your appearance.

Many people travel to distant countries to undergo operations related to eye cosmetics, where all procedures are much cheaper, even taking into account the flight. This is a huge risk. After all, if you fail, you are unlikely to fly again thousands of miles - make a correction or file a lawsuit!

8. Are there any fundamental differences in the approach to the prevention and treatment of eye diseases in the United States and in the post-Soviet space?

EO: Both me and my husband [Eugene Orloff, Dr. Bronx Eye Associates] communicate with colleagues who practice in the former Soviet Union, carefully read professional periodicals in Russian, and follow the latest in ophthalmological science. Therefore, I can say unequivocally: in the USA, the diagnostic equipment is much better, which makes it possible to make a more accurate diagnosis at the earliest stage of the disease. Laser technology, which is widely used here, prevents the development of eye disease and preserves the main function of the human eye - vision.

9. What other advice would you give to those who will be reading this interview?

EO: Protect your eyes. Going to an appointment with an ophthalmologist, be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What is your eye strain?
  • Do you spend a lot of time driving a car, reading or a computer monitor?
  • Do you work outdoors in different weather conditions?
  • Is your job related to the use of chemicals?

Be sure to ask your relatives: were there people in your family with hereditary eye diseases? Knowing the answers to these questions, we can more easily prevent the onset or development of diseases such as glaucoma or retinal disease. After all, we can test you for 360 genetic eye diseases. And in order not to make you tests for all diseases in a row, it is important for us to know which of them you may be susceptible to in the first place.

Do not hide such details of your lifestyle from doctors. For example, the habit of lying down, the love of bright light or semi-darkness. The more we know about how you use such a gift of nature as sight, the easier we can help you keep your eyes healthy and sharp.

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