Four Tips to Coping in College with Keratoconus

Living with keratoconus may not interfere with normal activities if vision impairment is minimal. For many adolescents living with keratoconus, wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses may be the only treatment necessary for this cornea disorder. However, vision loss due to keratoconus is frequently progressive, and can interfere with college activities in someone 18-24 years of age who was diagnosed with keratoconus in childhood. Noted in an article in the Journal of Ophthalmology is that corneal thinning caused by keratoconus induces nearsightedness, astigmatism, and corneal protrusion.

If you (or your college-age offspring) has keratoconus, speaking with a professional at the Precision Keratoconus Center can help you to understand keratoconus treatment options. Meanwhile, the following are four ways to cope with vision loss and other keratoconus symptoms in the college environment.

Tip Number 1. Use your Phone or Mobile Device to Record College Lectures

Reading notes transcribed into a mobile computer in classes can strain the eyes of any college student, and particularly if your eyeglasses or contact lenses no longer have the capacity to fully-correct your vision. Likewise, reading the text on a professor’s PowerPoint slides from a distance can be difficult for anyone with nearsightedness – and episodes of blurry vision that are common in keratoconus-affected people can make reading distant slides impossible.

Since the typical astigmatism resulting from keratoconus may necessitate wearing Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) contact lenses rather than soft contact lenses, a common consequence can be an inability to wear contact lenses comfortably throughout the entire day. Meanwhile, keratoconus-related corneal pain can also limit utilizing RGP contact lenses, as RGP lenses (as well as soft contact lenses) rest on the cornea.

Besides recording college lectures for re-listening in order to prepare for exams, recording your own notes – rather than re-reading typed notes – can reduce the likelihood that you will experience eye pain from straining them.

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Tip Number 2. Switch from Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Contact Lenses to Scleral Contact Lenses

Scleral contact lenses rest on the white of the eye or sclera, and are therefore useful in people living with keratoconus who have corneal pain. Experiencing persistent “dry eyes” is also linked to keratoconus, and the fluid reservoir created by the clearance of a scleral lens over the cornea reduces the dryness.

According to the website of Columbia University’s Department of Ophthalmology, between 10-20 percent of all people with keratoconus will not be able to tolerate contact lenses. Although scleral contact lenses require a steeper learning-curve to insert (and remove) properly, these lenses have been associated with better long-term toleration in keratoconus-afflicted people.

Tip Number 3. Utilize Your College Disability Office to Aid in Dealing with Professors

All public and private colleges that receive funding from the federal government under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are required to make their programs accessible to students with disabilities (per the ADA National Network). Therefore, it is highly likely that your college or university has a disability office to serve the needs of disabled students (including low-vision students).

Ensuring that staff in the disability office at your college are aware that you have a disability can aid you in ensuring that a professor dismissive of your vision deficits will be required to provide reasonable accommodation for you. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Centers for Disease Control defines “low-vision” as vision that cannot be corrected to a normal level.

Tip Number 4. Take Frequent Breaks from Reading E-Books on Your Digital Device

Digital devices emit blue light (a form of ultraviolet light), and blue light passes through the lens and cornea of the eye to the retina. A research article in the International Journal of Ophthalmology in 2018 concluded that lengthy exposure to blue light – linked to “dry eyes” – causes cornea inflammation. One specific mechanism for promoting such inflammation described in this article is that blue light increases reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in corneal epithelial cells.

Therefore, limiting your time spent reading e-books on your digital device to no more than one hour without a “break” is a good idea.

By visiting the nearest site of the Precision Keratoconus Center to your college campus, you can acquire more information about your keratoconus treatment options – including different types of contact lenses.

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