Leading Australian ophthalmologist Professor Stephanie Watson is reminding patients of the importance of seeking medical care for common eye conditions such as adenoviral conjunctivitis – the number one cause of eye infections globally.
Prof Watson from Sydney Eye Hospital said an observed decline in patients with eye conditions presenting for treatment is likely because many people are fearful of attending clinics due to a perceived risk of COVID-19 infection.
“We know the risk of COVID-19 is front of mind for all Australians currently, but non-related illnesses and infections are not only common but can pose significant risks to the eye and vision in the absence of medical attention. The message from the health authorities is clear: if you have a medical condition needing attention, don’t delay, seek treatment” said Professor Watson.
“For example, take conjunctivitis, the most common eye infection we see in Australia and an uncommon presentation of COVID-19 disease. While there might be a temptation to avoid treatment, if left untreated, there is a risk of impaired vision. Now is not the time to ignore medical attention for common eye problems.”
Studies1 indicated that conjunctivitis is an uncommon event with COVID-19. Conjunctival redness was present in subset of patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, typically occurring in those with systemic symptoms.
In response, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) have issued advice to seek immediate medical attention if symptoms present.
While there might be a temptation to avoid treatment, if left untreated, there is a risk of impaired vision
Dr Brian M Strem, PhD, CEO of Okogen, a biotechnology company leading the development of novel ophthalmic anti-viral therapies, said, “As only a small number of COVID-19 patients will show eye signs and symptoms, it’s more likely patients with conjunctivitis symptoms are infected with adenovirus, not COVID-19. However, patients should seek appropriate medical attention in any case.”
Adenoviral conjunctivitis is a communicable disease and is the number one cause of eye infections globally. While bacterial conjunctivitis is typically treated with antibiotics, these drugs do not work in treating viral forms of the infection. Despite the high incidence of adenoviral conjunctivitis, there are no approved therapies for the disease, and it remains a significant unmet medical need throughout the world.
There is an ongoing clinical trial throughout Australia testing a novel therapeutic to treat adenoviral conjunctivitis. The RUBY trial is seeking adult patients who are in the early stages of adenoviral ocular infections to evaluate its viral conjunctivitis treatment.
Dr Dominic Rillstone from Casey Superclinic in Berwick Victoria, a participating investigator in the RUBY trial, says that while a fear of healthcare facilities has developed in response to COVID-19, it’s also important to seek appropriate care. “It’s natural to fear the spread of COVID-19 and we strive to take all necessary precautions. While some clinics have been closed due to COVID-19 or had their services diverted, sites like ours are pleased to be opening again, making it easier for people to seek medical attention.”
To learn more about the RUBY trial, visit rubytrial.com.au