From Perfect to Impaired Vision
Growing up, Thomas relied on his 20/20 vision to participate in athletics and extra curricular activities, with baseball as the sport in which he truly excelled. Although he received regular check-ups with an optometrist, there was never any need to wear glasses or corrective lenses–leading him to believe that his eyesight would always remain “perfect.” However, when Thomas was in eighth grade another round of testing revealed irregularities in his corneas.
After undergoing corneal topography, a non-invasive imaging technique for mapping the surface curvature of the cornea, the results revealed signs of astigmatism, but his optometrist had a suspicion the symptoms also pointed to keratoconus, a degenerative eye condition that causes corneal thinning and deteriorating eyesight. After a follow-up visit, Thomas was diagnosed with keratoconus.
To offset the visual problems he was experiencing, he initially used rigid contacts and then hybrid contacts, but found they were often painful and hard to remove and insert. Further, Thomas began to suffer from chronic dry eyes and sometimes would have to put drops in his eyes as frequently as every two hours.
Finding A Solution
Thomas was able to successfully manage his condition and play sports for the next few years. Nevertheless, he still feared his vision and symptoms would continue to get worse and that he would be forced to carry a bottle of eye drops permanently. By the time Thomas was a junior in high school, his anxiety around the long-term effects of keratoconus was at its height. He was worried that he wouldn’t be able to hit a baseball or even see the blackboard in class.
At this point, Thomas met with his optometrist to discuss additional treatment options. One available solution was a corneal transplant, for which he was a confirmed candidate, but Thomas was hesitant to undergo the surgery and take prescription eye drops for the rest of his life to prevent tissue rejection.
Thomas’ optometrist then pointed him in the direction of a specialist, who told him about corneal cross-linking, a procedure that stiffens the cornea and may prevent further thinning and bulging. After conducting further research, Thomas decided that cross-linking was the best course to help preserve his eyesight.
A Future in Medicine
Thomas underwent cross-linking on his left eye in February 2013 as part of a clinical trial using the currently FDA-approved products and then on his right eye in May. Entering the doctor’s office for the first time, Thomas was unsure of what to expect, but found that it was a fairly quick surgery and a manageable recovery process.
Having recovered from the second procedure for nearly four years, Thomas says that all signs and test results indicate that the progression of his keratoconus has been halted. He still occasionally has dry eyes and he uses glasses to correct some vision issues, but at this point the keratoconus diagnosis has been almost forgotten completely.
While stressful, the ongoing situation and conversation around Thomas’ eye health helped spark an interest in medicine. Now a college graduate, he is currently applying to medical school – an endeavor he credits in part to his experience with keratoconus and the success of the cross-linking procedure.
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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.