Back-to-School In-Person or From Home with Keratoconus

Adolescents and young adults returning to high school or college often need to take lecture notes. Whether these notes are taken on a laptop computer or by writing them in a notebook, adequate eyesight is necessary to avoid eyestrain. Videoconferencing software utilized in distance-learning – as is occurring for many students during the Covid-19 pandemic – places an additional burden on students with cornea disorders (such as keratoconus). For this reason, the parents of offspring returning to high school and college in the fall season need to ensure that eyesight is checked and corrected as much as possible before the beginning of the new school year.

According to the National Keratoconus Foundation (NKF), following the “20-20-20” rule can aid students in decreasing eyestrain. This involves stopping every 20 minutes to focus eyes on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Meanwhile, the following describes four common symptoms of eyestrain, as well as why keratoconus-afflicted students are at a particular risk for eyestrain.

Reading with an Un-Corrected Astigmatism – Why This is a Bad Idea for Students

The abnormal shape of the cornea that is featured in keratoconus causes astigmatism, as well as nearsightedness (termed myopia). Astigmatism is linked to a refractive error resulting in blurry or distorted eyesight when an object is viewed either at close range or from a distance (according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology). This refractive error occurs because the abnormal cornea shape causes light rays to “hit” the retina at an incorrect angle. Since most soft contact lenses only correct myopia, a person with keratoconus wearing soft contact lenses is likely to still experience distortions of letters and numbers in PowerPoint slides and books – leading to eyestrain.

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Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Contact Lenses – Benefit for Keratoconus-Afflicted Students

Single-vision eyeglasses and Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) contact lenses are usually prescribed as corrective eyewear for keratoconus-afflicted people with mild-to-moderate keratoconus since these can correct for both myopia and astigmatism. While adjusting to wearing Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) contact lenses – often called “hard” contact lenses –  can be harder than for soft lenses, these small lenses that rest on the cornea enable correction of both myopia and astigmatism.

RGP contact lenses are prescribed for most keratoconus-afflicted students who prefer not to wear eyeglasses due to the high likelihood of astigmatism. This is because the combination of myopia and astigmatism – depending upon the severity of each – can lead to an impossibility for the keratoconus-afflicted student to read a textbook or course notes, thereby placing that student at a disadvantage in terms of keeping up with peers.

Using a Larger-Sized Font on a Computer to Read and Record Class Notes

Many teachers and professors provide electronic copies of their lecture presentations for students to review and memorize prior to periodic quizzes. This is a frequent occurrence for both students in a classroom and in online classes. If your offspring with keratoconus is receiving course materials to print on an ink-jet or laser printer (or review on the computer screen), enlarging the font-size of the written material before printing can lessen eyestrain upon reading. Additionally, decreasing exposure to blue light from computer screens if reading directly from the screen (through taking frequent rest breaks) is recommended.

The following are four common symptoms of eyestrain (per the Mayo Clinic):

  • Sore, tired, burning, and/or itching eyes;
  • Watery or dry eyes;
  • Headache;
  • Increased sensitivity to light

Scheduling an appointment with a professional at the Precision Keratoconus Center can enable you to prepare your keratoconus-afflicted offspring for returning to high school or college.

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