The Impact of COVID-19 on Individuals Across the Spectrum of Visual Impairment

Wesam S. Shalaby, Annamalai Odayappan, Rengaraj Venkatesh, Bonnielin K. Swenor, Pradeep Y. Ramulu, Alan L. Robin, Kavitha Srinivasan, Aakriti Garg Shukla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: TO assess perceptions and implications of COVID-19 infection across the spectrum of individuals with visually impairment (VI) and those with normal sight. Design: Prospective cross-sectional comparative study. Methods: Setting: institutional. Patients: 232 patients and their caregivers. Four groups were created based on better eye characteristics: blind (best-corrected distance visual acuity [BCDVA] <3/60 or visual field <10 central degrees); severe VI (BCDVA ≤3/60 to <6/60; vertical cup-to-disc ratio ≥0.85 or neuroretinal rim width ≤0.1); moderate VI (BCDVA ≤6/60 to <6/18); or no or mild VI (controls: BCDVA ≥6/18) based on International Classification of Diseases-10 criteria and Foster and Quigley's consensus definition of glaucoma. Procedure: telephone questionnaires. Main outcome measures: differences in perceptions and implications of COVID-19 infection across various levels of VI. Caregiver perceptions were a secondary outcome measure. Results: Surveys were completed by 232 participants, with 58 participants in each VI group. Mean age was 58.9 ± 13.2 years old. Greater degrees of VI were associated with older age (P = .008) and lower education level (P = .046). Blind participants more commonly perceived vision as a risk factor for contracting COVID-19 (P = .045), were concerned about access to health care (P <.001), obtained news through word of mouth (P <.001), and less commonly wore masks (P = .003). Controls more commonly performed frequent handwashing (P = .001), were aware of telemedicine (P = .029), and had fewer concerns about social interactions (P = .020) than groups with substantial VI. All caregivers reported more frequent patient care since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Conclusions: The pandemic might have had a disproportionate impact on the visually impaired, and evidence-based assessments of COVID-19 health outcomes in this population are warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-65
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican journal of ophthalmology
StatePublished - Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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