Retinal surgeons urge patients not to risk their sight

Posted: Wednesday 15 April 2020

Retinal surgeons are urging patients not to ignore any sudden onset of vision loss or dark shadow in their vision during the coronavirus crisis and to seek urgent medical treatment.

The call comes after concerns patients are permanently losing vision at home from macula-involving retinal detachment, either because they cannot access the usual referral pathway via their GP, optician or local A&E or because they think they should stay at home.

Mr Richard J Haynes, consultant vitreoretinal surgeon at Bristol Eye Hospital, is just one surgeon to have raised concerns after seeing a reduction in the number of patients presenting with retinal detachment since the coronavirus lockdown.

He said: “We just want to increase the awareness that if people get a sudden onset of vision loss or develop a dark shadow in their vision they could be at risk of retinal detachment and should seek urgent medical attention”.

“We want to make sure people don’t sit at home and think ‘oh I can’t possibly go in this isn’t serious enough’ because they might lose their vision either in their only good eye or miss the opportunity to have it successfully restored. A bit like wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) it’s important that it is treated quickly in order to save sight”.

He added: “We understand patients’ concerns with coming into hospital but we will do absolutely everything we can to protect them from coronavirus while they are with us. If we treat retinal detachment  early we can then fix the eye and restore the vision.”

The symptoms of a retinal detachment include a dark shadow that suddenly appears in the periphery of vision, and may progress rapidly to loss of central vision as the macula becomes involved. This is often preceded by floaters (little dark spots that are like a swarm of flies or a cobweb that move around) that suddenly appear or suddenly increase in number, often associated with flashes of light . The majority of retinal detachments occur in people over the age of 50.

Patients with symptoms of retinal detachment should seek immediate review by contacting their optician, GP or local eye casualty department. All can be contacted via telephone in the first instance, if telephone contact is not possible patients should present themselves to their local eye casualty department.

For more information or to seek support contact the Macular Society’s Advice and Information Service on 0300 3030 111.