Kids have one thought when it comes to summer vacation: no school! For many students of all ages, summer vacation means no homework, swimming in the pool, heading to the beach, and hanging with friends. However, summer vacation is also a good time to schedule medical appointments and/or procedures. For people living with keratoconus, a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape, summer vacation can be an ideal time to treat the condition.
Keratoconus and Summer Vacation
The average age of onset for keratoconus is 16, but diagnosis as young as 6 years has been recorded1. Based on this statistic, keratoconus patients are typically diagnosed as teenagers and young adults in high school and college. An early and accurate diagnosis can open the door to a few different treatment options, including FDA approved corneal cross-linking. While some cases of keratoconus can be managed with glasses or specialty contacts, others continue to progress. In these situations, keratoconus patients must seek an alternative treatment option to manage their condition.
For young adults diagnosed with keratoconus, it is recommended to receive corneal cross-linking if they are determined to be a candidate. However, if missing school or other obligations is a concern, talk with your physician to determine if scheduling a summertime procedure might be right for you. Summer vacation can be an ideal time to receive corneal cross-linking, as it allows for additional recovery time without having to rush back to classes, schoolwork and extracurricular activities.
Keratoconus Expert Weighs In
We recently spoke with Dr. Ken Beckman, of Comprehensive EyeCare of Central Ohio, who is very familiar with treating younger people with keratoconus. Dr. Beckman shared his opinions on why summer vacation can be a good time to consider receiving the corneal cross-linking procedure and what patients can expect during the recovery process.
Q: Do you see a higher rate of eye appointments in the summer for teens/ young adults? Have there been more CXL procedures completed during the summer as well?
A: We definitely see more teens/ young adults in the summer when they are out of school. I don’t notice a drastic difference in the procedure numbers, but for school-age patients, it is certainly easier to do these in the summer
Q: Anything else you want to add on the topic of summertime, eye appointments and corneal cross-linking?
A: Summer is a great time for teens/ young adults to come in for exams, as they are out of school. In general, these patients are still growing, and their eyes can change as well. It is always useful to get an eye exam before starting the next year of school to make sure that their vision does not affect their school performance. We also see more patients with allergy issues in the warmer months. Keratoconus patients have a strong association with allergies and allergy eye symptoms. Often, we can pick up a new diagnosis when a patient comes in for itching from allergies.
Q: If a patient undergoes corneal cross-linking, what is the recovery process like?
A: Typically, the patient will have a soft contact applied immediately after the procedure as a bandage. This will stay in place until the epithelium heals, which may be between one day and one week. The eye will be scratchy and irritated until the epithelium heals, but the contact reduces this significantly. The patient does not have many restrictions after the procedure. The first few days are just limited by comfort and vision. Being that the patient is not wearing their pre-op contacts for at least one week, they may have trouble due to their refractive error, unless they can see well in glasses. From an activity standpoint, they really have no restrictions.
Post Corneal Cross-Linking: What to Expect
While corneal cross-linking is considered a minimally invasive procedure and patients are able to return home on the same day, the surgery can affect each patient differently. Some may need a day or two to recover, while others may take a week before they return to their normal routine due to pain or blurry vision.
During the recovery process, many people in the Living with KC community have shared that it is helpful to remain in a dark room during those first few days post-procedure and try to stay away from electronics, including their phones and televisions. Some may also feel discomfort and pain or see a decrease in their vision while their eyes heal from surgery. If people are experiencing these symptoms, their recovery may be prolonged and if they’re in high school or college, this can mean missed school days.
Find a Cross-Linking Expert Near You
Dr. Beckman is a paid consultant for Avedro.