When Jessa was in eighth grade she began to experience difficulties with her vision. While she had worn contact lenses for a few years, some things began to look “funny” and out of focus. Jessa’s optometrist was not able to correct her eyesight to 20/20 despite prescribing a variety of contact lenses. Jessa’s mother, Angie, had a strong suspicion that her daughter had keratoconus – a degenerative eye condition affecting the shape and strength of the cornea. Keratoconus is characterized by a gradual thinning of the cornea and, without intervention, can lead to deteriorating eyesight, and in some cases, eventual blindness.
Years ago, Angie had become familiar with keratoconus while dealing with poor eyesight herself, and researching vision problems. Now, it seemed that her daughter was demonstrating worrisome symptoms that were consistent with the condition.
After follow-up testing, it was confirmed that Jessa had keratoconus in both eyes. Despite the diagnosis, Jessa’s vision remained in relatively good shape, so her optometrist advised a “watchful waiting” period for the condition. At the time, beyond special contact lenses and corneal transplants, there was no viable solution to limit the progression of the disease, so Jessa’s family agreed to regular six-month check-ups to identify any changes in her vision or corneal health.
The Right Treatment
Two years later in Spring 2017, Jessa started noticing that her vision was getting noticeably worse, which worried her family. While her day-to-day activities were still unaffected, her left eye was heavily compensating for her right eye. The family grew concerned over whether it would worsen in the future.
Her optometrist recommended trying hard contact lenses to offset the progressive corneal irregularity but Angie feared that her daughter would be unable to wear these. Hard contact lenses may offer effective vision correction and can be custom designed to the unique shape of the cornea. However, for many patients, they can be difficult to manage, and some individuals struggle adjusting to their presence in the eye. Since Jessa participated in sports and activities including playing soccer and the flute, it was clear a different option had to be considered.
With hard lenses off the table, Jessa’s optometrist recommended the family consider corneal cross-linking that was approved by the FDA the previous year. While it was impossible to fully repair the damage to Jessa’s eyesight, cross-linking could help limit the progression of the disease– a benefit that hard lenses could not provide.
After meeting with a specialist, it was confirmed that Jessa was a candidate for cross-linking. To better understand the procedure, Angie conducted further research and consultations, and soon the family agreed that cross-linking would be the best treatment course. In May 2017, she received the procedure in her right eye.
Hopeful for the Future
Now in the 11th grade and a few months removed from receiving cross-linking, Jessa has completely recovered. Although she will still need to wear contact lenses for her vision function, her doctor has cleared her to return to normal activities, such as band and soccer practice. She feels much better about the state of her vision compared to before the procedure.
While Jessa still has keratoconus in her left eye, it is much less severe than her treated eye and her vision is not yet noticeably impacted. At the advice of her optometrist, they are closely watching the left eye to catch any possible signs of progression of the disease indicating that treatment might be needed.
When she first found out she had keratoconus, Jessa was scared of how it would impact her future. Now, these feelings have mostly dissipated, and she is living her life as a normal and happy teenager.
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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.