Seven Questions to Ask Your Optometrist if You Have Keratoconus
Being diagnosed with a degenerative eye condition such as keratoconus can be unsettling, to say the least. However, understanding your condition is the first step to finding solutions that meet your unique needs. People with keratoconus have several options, and knowledge is power. With that in mind, here are seven questions you might want to ask your eye care professional if you receive a diagnosis of keratoconus.
- How will my condition affect my vision?
As mentioned, keratoconus is a degenerative condition that causes the dome-shaped cornea to become thinner and bulge outward. This bulge affects the cornea’s ability to refract light, often resulting in severe visual impairment. People have varying degrees of keratoconus. In its early stages, this condition can cause slight blurring as well as light sensitivity. As it progresses, simple tasks such as watching TV or driving may become more difficult.
- What options do I have?
Possible options for people with keratoconus include:
- Soft or gas permeable contact lenses
- Scleral contact lenses
- Procedures such as collagen corneal crosslinking
The option that is right for you will depend largely on the severity of your condition. For example, eyeglasses and soft disposable contact lenses are suitable only for the earliest stages of the disease, when symptoms are very mild. At a certain point, when the cornea deforms more, eyeglasses can no longer provide visual clarity, and another option such as scleral lenses may be more helpful.
- Will it get worse?
The bad news is that keratoconus is unpredictable, and no one can predict how it will progress. This condition usually appears in a person’s late teens or early 20s, although it can develop in your 40s or 50s as well. Typically, it develops in one eye and then the other, progressing for ten to twenty years and then plateauing. During progression, the bulge of the cornea will increase, and the vision will worsen. These changes may occur slowly, over a matter of years, or relatively quickly.
- How can I prevent my kids from getting keratoconus?
Although keratoconus can affect anyone, it does often affect multiple members of the same family. However, just because you have it does not necessarily mean that your kids will have it, too. Because the exact cause of keratoconus is unknown, it’s difficult to predict who will get it or determine what steps to take to prevent it. Since there does appear to be a genetic link, if you have keratoconus, then you should have your child’s eyes checked regularly. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the first eye examination at 6 months, at 4 years old and the right before starting kindergarten. They recommend annual eye examinations after that.
- Has my condition progressed since my last visit?
You’ll want to keep tabs on your condition and be sure that you are on top of the latest treatments and the best options for you. Because your best treatment choices change as your condition evolves, it’s important to know about any changes as they happen. Be sure to schedule regular exams with your eye doctor and ask any questions that you may have.
- Does early diagnosis make a difference in the progression of keratoconus?
While early diagnosis may or may not help slow the progression of the disease, it is nonetheless vital to begin treatment as soon as possible. That’s because clear vision is essential for all parts of your life, whether in school, working, driving, or just trying to relax and read a book. There are excellent keratoconus treatments available now, so be sure to see your eye doctor regularly whether you have symptoms or not. The earlier keratoconus is diagnosed, the earlier measures can be taken to stop the progression of the condition. They may catch signs of keratoconus or other eye conditions that are more treatable when caught early.
- When should I call my eye doctor?
When you have keratoconus, proper contact lens care is essential. Be sure to follow your eye care practitioner’s instructions to the letter, and you won’t likely experience any complications. Some symptoms to watch for, however, include:
- Pain or excessive irritation
- Redness, burning, or extreme tearing
- Inability to keep your eyes open
- Sensitivity to light
- Fog, haze, or streaks around lights
- White spots on the cornea
If you do notice any of these symptoms, see your eye care practitioner right away.