Learning that you have keratoconus can be anxiety-provoking since this cornea disorder can lead to legal blindness. If you work in an occupation that requires a high level of visual acuity, receiving a keratoconus diagnosis in early adulthood can be especially nerve-wracking. However, there are ways to maintain your vision, and many afflicted people do not advance to legal blindness. Meanwhile, keratoconus is commonly-believed to affect at least one in every 2,000 people in the US. However – according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) – its prevalence may actually be as high as one in every 400 people.
Besides wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses to improve your vision, the following are five specific tips for keratoconus-afflicted adolescents or young adults to preserve eyesight. You can learn more about keratconus by visiting an office of the Precision Keratoconus Center.
Tip Number 1 – Avoid Direct Sunlight or the Glare of a Mobile Phone Screen into the Eyes
Light sensitivity is a common occurrence in keratoconus-afflicted people, and this can cause pain in the eyes. If you are experiencing eye pain for any reason, you are more likely to be unable to focus your eyes in order to read (and reading is often required in order to perform work duties). Consequently, you may experience blurred vision. Therefore, wearing sunglasses when exposed to direct sunlight (linked to excessive Ultra-Violet [UV]-ray exposure) is even more important for people with cornea disorders than other youth and adults.
UV rays are classified as UV-A or UV-B, and UV-B over-exposure has been associated with corneal sunburn and scarring (per the website of PreventBlindness.org). In contrast, UV-A over-exposure promotes the development of cataracts and/or macular degeneration over time (which are both widely-recognized to worsen eyesight).
While a mobile phone screen does not emit UV rays, over-exposure to the glare of a mobile phone screen can also promote macular degeneration (per an article in Progress in Retinal and Eye Research).
Tip Number 2 – Wash Your Hands Before Touching Eyes to Lessen Eye Infection Risk
Scar tissue on the cornea can result from an eye infection, and this can worsen keratoconus. An eye infection can be caused by exposure to one or more of the following:
Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most common bacterial causes of an eye infection affecting the cornea, and can be related to poor hand hygiene (followed by touching the eye) or failure to properly-clean “soft”, “hard”, or scleral contact lenses. Meanwhile, around 30,000 cases of microbial keratitis are documented annually in the US (per a medical research article published in 2018).
Tip Number 3 – Wear Corrective Eyeglasses or Contact Lenses as Prescribed
Keratoconus often results in myopia and astigmatism, which can necessitate wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses for visual acuity. Since people with keratoconus often are unable to wear “soft” contact lenses due to astigmatism – and “hard” contact lenses involve a greater lifestyle adjustment – it may seem easier to simply skip wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses during the workday as much as possible.
However, eye strain is often the consequence of not wearing prescribed corrective eyewear, and this can exacerbate specific eye disorders related to keratoconus (such as “dry eye” syndrome and pain in the eyes). It can also interfere with your overall workplace performance.
Tip Number 4 – Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes
Excessive eye-rubbing in childhood is considered one of the possible causes of keratoconus. It also can irritate the cornea in people who are living with keratoconus (or another cornea disorder). A scratched cornea can subsequently lead to an infection in the eye, and this can have severe ramifications for keratoconus-affected people. Eye-rubbing can also contribute to persistent corneal inflammation, which can cause pain in the eyes.
Tip Number 5 – Treat Your “Dry Eye” Condition if You Have It
Impaired tear secretion can lead to “dry eye” syndrome, whereby the normal level of eye lubrication is compromised. In turn, this can result in a feeling of “dryness” in the eye upon blinking (and eye pain). According to an article in PLoS One, “dry eyes” are common in people with keratoconus. You may be prescribed eye drops to treat your “dry eye” condition, and utilizing this treatment as prescribed is important to maintaining your vision as a keratoconus-afflicted person.
One reason is that natural tears (or a prescribed eye drop solution) aid in enabling dirt that enters the eye to wash out of it – and this aids in preventing an eye infection. Another reason is that painful eyes can make using them to see more difficult (and then make it difficult to drive your vehicle or perform your job functions).
When vision worsens to the point that contact lenses can no longer correct vision to a level needed for you to perform your normal job and home-based activities, surgery (such as corneal cross-linking) may be an option. If you have questions related to your keratoconus diagnosis and want to speak with knowledgeable professionals, consider phoning the Precision Keratoconus Center.