For nearly two decades, Kyle’s rare corneal disease slowed down the busy engineer and avid traveler. He often wondered if he would require a corneal transplant, until a fluke allergic reaction forced him to visit a corneal specialist. During the visit, he learned about a procedure that would slow or halt the progression of his condition and allow him to keep living his best life.
Kyle first began to experience blurry vision while on summer break from college about 20 years ago. He had never worn glasses or contacts, but suddenly detected a notable difference in his ability to see clearly with his right eye. He made an appointment with a local optometrist who examined his eyes and detected a slight steepness in Kyle’s cornea. The doctor told Kyle that he likely had a very mild case of keratoconus, but recommended no treatment at the time. Kyle learned that keratoconus is a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape, causing distorted vision.
Having never heard of the condition and unconvinced of any urgency to act, Kyle managed the blurriness for the next year, squinting a little bit in class but continuing his studies. However, about a year later while getting fitted for prescription safety glasses for his internship, another optometrist reaffirmed the diagnosis— Kyle was living with keratoconus. He returned to his local optometrist to discuss potential management options, including contacts or possibly a corneal transplant down the road.
Powering Through Challenges
For the next several years, Kyle wore hard contacts to help manage the symptoms of his keratoconus. Although the contact lenses generally improved his vision, they still created challenges in his life outside of work. Throughout his 20s, Kyle spent much of his free time dirt track racing, however bits of dirt or debris that got into his hard contacts created serious irritation and even pain for him. In 2010, nearly a decade after being first diagnosed, Kyle switched to hybrid lenses which greatly improved his comfort level.
As someone who loves to travel, often hopping on flights to spend long weekends exploring, Kyle wanted to be able to toss his contact supplies— including extra lenses and special solutions— into a carry-on bag and go! However, TSA limits on liquids sometimes forced him to check his bag, rather than carry it with him, leaving him worrying about losing it and being without his contacts.
Despite these challenges, Kyle continued to manage his condition and live as fully as possible. Since his vision did not seem to be getting worse, he simply continued to visit his optometrist annually, but sought no further information about other, long-term, treatment options.
Engineering a Treatment Path
In December of 2018, Kyle again visited his optometrist for his annual appointment and to get a new pair of hybrid contacts. Almost immediately after, he began experiencing irritation, including red, itchy eyes. Over the next month, he saw several doctors with the hope of identifying the problem— including his optometrist and an allergist. Finally, he sought the help of a corneal specialist, Dr. Donna Brown at Virginia Eye Institute. Deep down, Kyle always knew he needed to seek that level of care eventually.
Dr. Brown determined that Kyle had developed an allergy to a new brand of contact solution he had started using about a year ago. After a simple switch to another formula, his irritation disappeared. Kyle’s contacts were comfortable again, however, while there, Kyle and Dr. Brown began discussing more long term treatment options for managing his progressive keratoconus, including FDA-approved cross-linking, the first and only therapeutic treatment that stiffens the cornea to slow or halt the progression of keratoconus.
It was not the first time Kyle had heard about cross-linking. For years his mom had been monitoring news about the development and FDA approval of the treatment. She occasionally shared articles about it and often wondered if it was something he should be pursuing. So, when Dr. Brown informed Kyle that the procedure was medically indicated and he recommended that he undergo treatment, Kyle felt no hesitation about moving forward.
Full Speed Ahead
In July of 2019, Kyle had his right eye cross-linked. He experienced no pain thanks to the medicated numbing drops Dr. Brown used during the procedure. Afterwards Kyle said his eyes felt sore, but after going home and sleeping the rest of the day and night, he felt no more discomfort and was back to normal the following day.
Because his insurance company fully covered the FDA-approved treatment, Kyle was eager to schedule the procedure on his other eye. He underwent his second cross-linking procedure on his left eye in November of 2019, which he says went even smoother than the first procedure, given he knew what to expect.
Now that his progressive keratoconus has been appropriately treated, Kyle says it was the right decision for him and one he wishes he had made earlier.
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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.