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One year after COVID-19 and fighting for my vision
In March 2020, I was one of the first people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the state of Oregon. While new information is still being discovered about the disease to this day, one year ago, less than a week after the World Health Organization declared the pandemic, I was dealing with the virus and fear of the unknown. What I thought was allergies turned into a fever, lightheadedness, blurred vision, and more I had a severe case of COVID-19. When I was sick, getting through to the other side without being hospitalized was my only goal. A year after recovering, I’m working to heal the things that COVID-19 deteriorated.
“We know COVID-19 deprives the entire body of oxygen, including the brain, and this is what can cause eye and vision complications.” -Amber Dunn, O.D.
There’s been a lot of news about the longterm effects of COVID-19. People talk about its impact on their mental health, their ability to breathe and their ability to make it through the day without a nap. People talk about brain fog, memory problems, and difficulty exercising. I didn’t hear or see any mention of the possibility that COVID-19 can cause symptoms similar to a traumatic brain injury (TBI), the way it can change your eyesight and the need for an eye exam after recovering.
Once I recovered and was no longer contagious, I expected to feel back to normal. When a few weeks passed and I was still struggling, I didn’t know what to do. I was lethargic for months after my illness; my eyes began to hurt and were extremely sensitive to light. I had to take a month off work, unpaid, because I was unable to do my job safely.
Before contracting COVID-19 I wore glasses, but the difficulty I had seeing was unlike anything I’d experienced before. I was in severe pain and had frequent migraines. My depth perception was so thrown off I could no longer ride my motorcycle, and I love riding my motorcycle.
When I finally went to see Dr. Amber Dunn, my optometrist, she explained that the symptoms and issues I was experiencing were caused by COVID-19. She said the illness caused convergence insufficiency, which is common in people who suffer from TBIs. She said while I was sick, my brain had been deprived of oxygen and blood flow, which can cause long-term problems. My forgetfulness, difficulty paying attention, headaches, poor depth perception and light sensitivity were caused by the convergence insufficiency.
Dr. Dunn recommended a treatment called Syntonics, a light therapy used to balance the nervous system. They have me wear paper glasses, kind of like 3-D glasses, and I complete movements while a light is concentrated on the glasses. I did these treatments five days a week and have seen improvement. My eyesight still varies day to day but it’s better than it was and I’m able to focus my eyes better.
“Once you’ve recovered from Covid-19 make sure to get your eyes checked; it’s an important part of taking care of yourself and getting back to who you were.” -Mark from Oregon
When a friend told me they had COVID-19 I said, “As soon as you’re fine you need to go get your eyes checked.” Struggling with the issues with my eyes, and all the things I couldn’t do because my vision wasn’t the same was frustrating and lonely. The longer the issue goes unmanaged the worse it gets, so once you’ve recovered from COVID-19 make sure you get your eyes checked; it’s an important part of taking care of yourself and getting back to who you were
Amber Dunn, O.D.
Dr. Dunn practices at Gatti Vision in Portland, Oregon, providing comprehensive and medical eye exams for the whole family, with a specialty in dry eye disease. She is passionate about teaching, so in addition to being an assistant professor, she now has fouirth-year optometry students rotating through her clinic. Dr. Dunn has served on several committees within the American Optometric Association, and she is currently the Membership Director of the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association. Find and AOA doctor of optometry near you.
Dylan Shockey is one of millions of Americans who devotes more than 10 hours a day to screen time. The former athlete, avid gamer and mechanical engineer says he’s “on the computer 99% of the time” during the workday. “8 hours, 9 hours, 10 hours. However long I'm working, I'm usually staring at a computer.”
Edward Melman, O.D., knew his patient’s health history, personality and energy level. Rafael Melendez had been seeing Dr. Melman at his Voorhees, New Jersey, office for regular comprehensive eye exams for more than 20 years. In the past decade, he had been seeing Dr. Melman more often, after cataract surgery and for ongoing glaucoma treatment.
Following cataract surgery, “May West” thought her vision and eye health were good and she didn’t make her annual eye exam appointment with her doctor of optometry. After 10 years, she went in and her doctor diagnosed her with glaucoma, providing her with quick treatment that averted additional vision loss.