Identifying Warning Signs

As a pathologist (a physician who studies the cause, origin and nature of disease), Dr. Eric’s profession depends on diagnosing patients with cancers and other disorders. To do so, Eric uses a microscope to closely scrutinize peripheral blood, biopsy, and patient tissue from surgery. While oncologists treat cancer, pathologists are the ones who recognize the disease, making Eric’s vision an invaluable part of his professional skill set.

But when a rare eye condition called keratoconus began negatively affecting his eyesight, he was the one left searching for answers to help preserve his vision and his career.

Growing up, Eric had perfect vision. But in 2008, during his first year of medical residency, he began experiencing discomfort and blurred vision in both eyes. The symptoms appeared seemingly out of nowhere. At first Eric thought they related to allergies, as he was constantly rubbing his eyes due to feelings of dryness.

Soon he started having trouble reading and driving at night, which led him to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. The doctor informed Eric that it was probable he was living with keratoconus, a degenerative eye disease that causes progressive thinning and bulging of the cornea, resulting in vision problems.

A Profession in Jeopardy

Seeking a second opinion, Eric visited several specialists who confirmed that he was currently in the early stages of KC. Eric was somewhat familiar with the disease, as his cousin also has keratoconus and proved to be a great resource for information about the disease and possible treatment options. (Read more about Family History and Keratoconus)

At first, he started using specialty glasses and contact lenses to manage his symptoms. This initially helped correct his vision but did little to stop the progression of the disease. Even with these newfound challenges, Eric was able to graduate from medical residency on time, where he then specialized in hematopathology (disorders of the bone marrow, blood, and lymph nodes).

After several years of successfully managing his keratoconus, Eric’s left eye dramatically worsened. In just a short period of time, he began having trouble finding contact lenses that would fit over his warped corneas. As Eric’s job is heavily based on his ability to use a microscope, he feared that unless he found a permanent solution to treat his keratoconus, his worsening eyesight would impact his ability to perform at a high level.

Finding a Better Solution

Fortunately, Dr. Eric learned about a treatment option that, at that time, had been recently approved by the FDA, called corneal cross-linking. Cross-linking strengthens the collagen bonds in the cornea to halt the progression of the disease.

In 2016, over eight years after his diagnosis, Eric had his left eye treated with cross-linking. For the first day following the procedure, Eric experienced light sensitivity and needed a dark environment to stay comfortable, as well as ice packs and pain medication. However, the discomfort soon subsided to manageable levels, and Eric returned to work two days later, wearing an eye patch to offset any remaining light sensitivity.

Given the success of the initial procedure, Eric decided to undergo cross-linking on his right eye a year later. The recovery turned out to be much easier the second time around, since he knew what to expect and used the eye patch earlier in the process. Now that both eyes have been treated, finding corrective contact lenses has become more manageable, and Dr. Eric is hopeful that his vision will no longer be an impediment to his career.

Click here to read more KC Journeys.

The results described on this site are based on data collected regarding short- and intermediate-term efficacy of treatment. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.

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