In 5th grade, Baylen started wearing a contact lens in his left eye to correct for his nearsightedness. While the contact seemed to manage the vision issues he was facing at the time, it wasn’t until Baylen’s family traveled out of their rural Nebraska town that they learned he was living with something more serious.

Routine Visit, Abnormal Results

In middle school, Baylen began experiencing chronic headaches that greatly impacted his ability to function in and out of school. The debilitating pain often forced him to leave school early and left him sick on the couch at home. Sometimes Baylen couldn’t see the keyboard on his computer or write legibly, so his parents would spend three to four hours per night transcribing his homework for him.

Baylen’s parents assumed he was struggling with headaches caused by hormones like his older brother and hoped that he would eventually grow out of them. However, their concerns became more serious when they discovered a lump on the top of his head during a camping trip. They quickly visited a neurologist to have it biopsied, but came away with no answers.

A few months later, as part of their ‘back-to-school’ routine, Baylen’s dad took him to his annual eye exam at their local Walmart. It was during the appointment that the doctor noticed something irregular about his cornea and immediately referred him to a corneal specialist in Sioux Falls. This was the first time the word ‘keratoconus’ had been mentioned, which was scary, but also comforting that there might be an explanation for Baylen’s headaches.

Big Appointment in the Big City

Forty-eight hours after their Walmart exam, Baylen and his parents traveled more than an hour to a vision center in Sioux Falls. Within minutes, the ophthalmologist revealed that Baylen was living with keratoconus in his left eye, a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape. Although the more common symptoms of keratoconus include blurred or distorted vision and increased sensitivity to light, others may include irritation, eye strain, and headaches.

During the appointment, the doctor explained Baylen’s diagnosis in detail and the available treatment options, including corneal cross-linking. Avedro’s cross-linking is the first and only FDA approved therapeutic treatment for progressive keratoconus which stiffens the cornea to slow the progression of the disease. Baylen’s parents felt relieved to know exactly what was happening to their son and decided to treat his keratoconus as soon as possible, whether insurance covered it or not. Fortunately, their insurance  approved the procedure and they moved forward with scheduling it as soon as possible.

Back In Action

About six weeks after he was diagnosed with keratoconus, Baylen received cross-linking on his left eye. He experienced no pain during the procedure and drove with his parents back home the same day. He used numbing drops and kept gauze over his eye while he recovered. As an active teenage boy, Baylen’s parents did not want him to return to school too soon and risk injuring his eye while it healed, so he stayed home from school for a week out of caution.

Now that his keratoconus has been treated, Baylen’s headaches have become less frequent. Thankfully the unexplained lump on his head eventually went away. He is now back to his active self and participating in the activities he enjoys, including basketball and track.

Before learning Baylen was living with keratoconus, his mom, Tiffany, felt a sense of guilt seeing her son struggle with headaches and not knowing the underlying cause. Now, she is relieved Baylen was diagnosed with keratoconus early and was able to be treated almost immediately. The family even went back to thank the eye doctor at Walmart who first noticed an irregularity in Baylen’s eye, and Tiffany hopes Baylen’s story will help other parents understand the importance of regular vision screenings.

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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.