Published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology – March 10, 2021. Patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) who become infected with COVID-19 may have an elevated risk of severe illness, a new study suggests. But eye experts caution that the link between AMD and COVID is unclear, and more research is needed.
Why might COVID complications be worse in people with AMD?
People with macular degeneration have chronic inflammation. Over time, this inflammation can damage cells in the retina and cause vision loss.
Doctors suspect that inflammation drives severe COVID complications and leads to a higher risk of death.
There are other reasons why COVID complications might be worse in people with macular degeneration. Many people with AMD are 65 or older, and have other health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Possible link between COVID, inflammation and macular degeneration
Researchers studied 6,398 people infected with COVID during the first wave of the pandemic. Patients with AMD were three times more likely to die than those without AMD, and died more quickly. One out of five patients with AMD required intubation.
But experts point out that the study was small and included only 88 patients with AMD. It’s not clear what type of AMD or what stage of disease those patients had. A larger and more detailed study is needed to clarify the risk of COVID complications in people with AMD.
Take steps to protect your health
1. Continue to follow health guidelines to prevent COVID infection
- Wear a face mask in public places
- Maintain social distance
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly
- Avoid public and private gatherings (even with family and friends)
2. Talk to your ophthalmologist about your treatment plan
- It’s important to continue your routine eye injections
- Your eye doctor has implemented new precautions and guidelines to reduce the potential for virus transmission and to maximize your safety during clinic visits.
3. Get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as one is available to you
- A COVID vaccine will prepare your immune system to fight the virus if you are exposed
- Getting a vaccine can keep you from getting seriously ill if you do become infected