Vision Recap Of Previous Articles of Interest

Besides the comments that we get, one of the best parts of putting together this blog is the wonderful group of guests who share their expertise and personal stories. I want to thank all of the eye care professionals and friends that have contributed to make this blog a success.
Vision Recap
Here is a quick vision recap of some of the articles we had in the past that you may have missed.

Jullia A. Rosdahl, MD, PhDCoffee and Glaucoma and Taking Control of Glaucoma

David Liao, MD, PhDWhat Are A Macular Pucker and Macular Hole?

Kooshay MalekBeing A Blind Artist

Dan Roberts15 Things Doctors Might Like Us To Know

Jennifer VilleneuveLiving With KC Isn’t Easy

Daniel D. Esmaili, MDPosterior Vitreous Detachment

Donna ColeLiving With Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Pouya N. Dayani, MDDiabetes And The Potential For Diabetic Retinopathy

Robin Heinz BratslavskyAdjustments Can Help With Depression

Judith DelgadoDrugs to Treat Dry AMD and Inflammation

Kate StreitHadley’s Online Education for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Catherine Warren, RNCan Keratoconus Progression Be Predicted?

Richard H. Roe, MD, MHSUveitis Explained

Sumit (Sam) Garg, MDCataract Surgery and Keratoconus

Howard J. Kaplan, MDSpotlight Text – A New Way to Read

Gerry TrickleImagination and KC

In addition to the topics above, here are few more articles that cover a variety of vision issues:

If you have any topics that you would like to read about, please let us know in the comments section below.


Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

What Are Scleral Contact Lenses?

In the beginning…of contact lenses…there were scleral lenses…only.

In the year 1887 a great gift was given to the world of sufferers of distorted vision resulting from corneal tissue that was irregular in shape from disease or trauma.
scleral lenses

The contact lens was invented nearly simultaneously by physicians working separately in Germany and in France. Working from drawings of Leonardo da Vinci (1508) and ideas of the British astronomer Sir John Herschel (1828), August Müller and separately Adolph Fick and Eugene Kalt blew glass shells to fit the outer eye and to some extent remedy their visual difficulties. These lenses rested on the conjunctiva of the eye above the sclera or white of the eye and were thus the first scleral contact lenses — the first contact lenses of any sort.

What are Scleral Contact Lenses?

The design and manufacture of scleral lenses has been a story of technological development significant for improvement in comfort, material, and affinity for the ocular surface.

For many years the lenses were partially molded and partially ground from the material of which hard contact lenses are made: PMMA (poly-methyl methacrylate) known as Plexiglas or Perspex. To form these lenses, like tooth implants, a plaster cast is made from a negative mold prepared from dental impression putty. The plastic would be heated and given the shape of the fitting surface of the lens from the plaster cast and then the power and edge curves would be ground onto the outside surface of the lens. Later came preformed trial sets not unfamiliar to those which we use today.

The current generation of scleral lens fitting began sometime in the last fifteen years with the mating of advanced corneal topography measurements, computer driven lathes and the observations of some very clever contact lens scientists. Proprietary designs of scleral lenses offering a variety of diameters, fitting philosophies, and multiple parameters are filling the gaps contact lens specialists have been wrestling with using smaller corneal contact lens designs for decades with less than optimal results. Most recently a firm has begun manufacturing lenses with a 3-D printer from an image generated from the eye. One eye…one lens, the lens is meant to fit like a fingerprint.

When discussing contact lens treatment, experts are experts because they agree that, any sort, size, or design of lens will have both positive and negative effects on the eyes and the tissues surrounding them. While it is true that many of the fitting and comfort issues confronted with corneal lenses of any size and design can be managed well with scleral designs, the scleral lens can also be difficult for some patients; for some eyes; for some conditions.

From the outset the larger size of the today’s scleral lens provides comfort on par with soft contact lenses for exactly the same reason: their size. Also, like soft contact lenses the scleral will not move around on the surface of the eye allowing the wearer a much more relaxed contact lens experience — there is no necessity to balance small corneal lenses between tense eyelids – vision can be enjoyed in any direction of gaze. The lenses will not fall off the eye and the increased size is a clear plus in finding a dropped contact lens.

On the other hand the quality of vision gained with scleral lenses specifically in cases of distorted corneae is far more comparable to that achievable with corneal GP lenses than with soft contact lenses in most cases.

Over the years my keratoconus patients have benefited from a series of contact lens breakthroughs that have variously improved the quality of their vision, their comfort with contact lenses, or in some other way the health of their eyes. Some years ago I “re-invented” the piggy-back system of contact lens wear which I summarized in 2008 in an article published in the Contact Lens Spectrum. Piggy-backers would place their vision restoring firm contact lens on top of a disposable daily wear lens of minimal focusing power. The soft lens would reduce the sensation of the firm lens while in many cases preventing the contact lens from abrading the cornea. More recently I have been successfully moving patients to scleral lenses because there is certainly less bother (only one lens per eye) and far less worry over corneal abrasions as the lens rests on the conjunctiva over the sclera and maintains a fluid cushion over the cornea itself.

Scleral lenses are finding their place in the world of contact lens fitting primarily to remedy vision problems from very irregular or otherwise damaged corneae both those caused by developing disease and trauma through injury or surgery. More and more, these lenses are requested by patients with normal eyes who want to enjoy the benefits provided by these lenses while participating in sports or other activities.

Scleral lenses are renowned for their greater comfort. In many cases a correctly fitted lens can be worn for many waking hours. Many patients have found that they benefit from exchanging the fluid from the reservoir from time to time throughout the day. The fluid that fills the lens-cornea space is sterile, non-preserved normal saline or in some cases saline with a non-preserved tear substitute added when needed for improved comfort.

A proper care regimen for scleral lenses is not different from that for any other contact lens manufactured from a firm oxygen permeable material. The lenses require cleaning upon removal, soaking in a recommended solution appropriate to the material of the lens and a periodic treatment to remove protein deposits. Of course, the exact care specifications will vary from patient to patient according to the evaluation of their contact lens specialist.

Just like any lens modality, the fitting requires expertise. Many who fit and dispense contact lenses rely on boxed soft lenses for their patients. When corneae become distorted those lenses will hardly fill the need. Greater expertise is required to fit rigid corneal lenses needed for these more problematic surfaces. The decision of the corneal lens expert to move on to the world of larger lenses is not of the same magnitude as that from boxes to corneal GP lenses. The investment is more a matter of time spent in discussion with the manufacturer’s fitting consultants, some reading, a webinar or two and keeping up to date with the lens designs that are available.

I was not among the first to use the current generation of scleral lenses, but when the opportunity knocked some years ago, I realized the importance of this form of contact lens and I believe I have positively influenced the quality of life of many of my patients.


Bezalel Schendowich - scleral lensesBezalel Schendowich, OD
Medical Advisory Board of the National Keratoconus Foundation
Fellow of the International Association of Contact Lens Educators
Clinical Supervisor & Specialty Contact Lens Fitter, Sha’are Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel

Traveling With Low Or No Vision

What Good is Sitting Alone in Your Room?

Traveling with low or no vision

There is a whole world out there to discover — regardless of whether you can see it all with your eyes. No one will tell you traveling with low or no vision does not present challenges, but there are precious few that cannot be overcome with planning, creativity and patience.
Traveling with low or no vision
A plethora of for-profit and nonprofit companies exist to help you navigate the complexities of traveling with a vision disability — from technology and websites, to travel agents and tour operators. And don’t overlook helpful — and free! — resources such as your friends and family, assistance pets and even complete strangers.

Travel Tools
Everyday tools become even more essential when you are traveling in unfamiliar surroundings. A mobility cane (consider a small travel version) will let you find your way more easily — and notify others of your vision issues. This is especially helpful for two reasons: Strangers are less likely to get in your way and more likely to help if you ask for it. In a recent DEF blog post (“Visual Aids and Techniques When Traveling”

Linda Becker, who has retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and travels primarily with her guide dog, is planning her next trip to Australia and New Zealand with Mind’s Eye Travel, a company that specializes in creating tours especially for people who are blind or visually impaired, as well as providing sighted guides. There are many such companies that will assist you with all facets of travel, from immigration documents to reservations to tour guides. Traveleyes offers discounts to sighted travelers in exchange for helping guide non-sighted travelers during group vacations around the world. is a good resource for companies that specialize in travel for people with accessibility issues. It includes reviews and recommendations on everything from airlines and cruises, to travel agents and hotels.

Plan, Prep, Pack
Ask any experienced low-vision traveler, and they will tell you planning, planning and more planning is the key to successful travel. Not only will it make your trip go more smoothly, it will give you peace of mind, as well as the ability to relax and enjoy yourself. The fewer surprises, the more confident and comfortable you will feel. And if something does goes awry, it is easier “go with the flow,” because everything else has been planned.

Right at the top of the list with planning is, well, making a list. Prepare a list of all the items you will need, then double it. That means if you wear contact lenses, pack at least one extra pair, as well as cleaning solutions. Same goes for glasses and sunglasses. Make sure you have plenty of the medications and other supplies you use on a day-to-day basis. Most seasoned travelers suggest you have multiples of all these stashed in different bags: your carry-on, your suitcase and a handbag of some kind that never leaves your side. This way, if one bag gets lost, you still have another one or two. Sample sizes may become your best friend!

Carolyn Hammett, an accomplished photographer and world traveler who has keratoconus (KC), advises: “Be prepared; having backups makes you more comfortable. Be ready to change contact lenses in public restroom if you need to. Have one of everything you need, vision-wise, with you at all times.” To learn more about Hammett and see what she packs for a two-week trip, see “Through a Lens with One Eye Blind,” a story from our recent e-newsletter focused on travel experiences and tips.

“Leave extra time, notify airlines or others in advance that you may need assistance, and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” says Adam Lawrence, who also has RP and travels regularly with his guide dog. (Read more about traveling with guide dogs in “Traveling Tails”, from an article in our recent e-newsletter.

Speaking of help, don’t forget the helper sitting next to you right now, whether it’s a spouse, a friend or a guide dog. Traveling alone can be vexing for people with full vision, so it’s natural for those with low vision to feel even more anxiety.

Dame Judi Dench, who has age-related macular degeneration (AMD), recently told Radio Times she no longer travels alone. “I need someone to say, ‘Look out, there’s a step here!’ or else I fall all over the place like a mad, drunk lady,” she said.

“Don’t travel by yourself the first time — go with someone you trust, and let them know how much help you want,” Hammett says. “I’ve gotten to the point where I tell my husband, ‘Don’t tell me anything until I screw up.’”

With planning, preparation and practice, you may get to a point where you feel comfortable traveling alone. You will only know your limitations if you try to stretch them.

“Just try,” Hammett says. “Do it once to find out if you can.”

Additional Resources

Access-Able Travel Source’s “Travel Tips for People Who are Blind or Visually Impaired”

Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality

Transportation Security Administration’s “Passengers Who Are Blind or Have Low Vision”


LH1_RESCANLauren Hauptman
Lauren Hauptman INK

Itchy Eyes? It Must Be Allergy Season

Spring is in the air, which also means it’s the season for allergies (i.e. Itchy, watery, red and generally unhappy eyes). People with keratoconus need to be particularly careful around allergy season, because rubbing your eyes can exacerbate both your allergies and keratoconus. woman with itchy eyesAmong the general keratoconus population, we see a significant incidence of allergic eye disease, which causes itchy eyes. In addition to this, there is a high correlation of keratoconus patients who rub their eyes. If you are one of these, STOP. When you rub your itchy eyes, it damages the mast cells within the eye tissue, causing histamine to release from these cells. More histamine around your eyes will increase itching and your urge to rub, which in turn can cause keratoconus to get worse. So even if rubbing makes your itchy eyes feel good, stop: the potential long term damage outweighs the short-term relief.

Whether your eyes are watery, itchy, or red around this time, you’ll find the best relief beyond your neighborhood drug store’s allergy aisle. While there are over-the-counter medications that help allergies, they may not be the best option for you. Oral medications for allergies tend to dry out the body in general (which is why they make a runny nose stop running), which includes the eyes. When it comes to eye drop options for allergy relief, the results are often unpredictable and short-lived.

Some surprisingly simple changes to your home can help. Keeping the windows and doors closed to keep the allergens out is helpful. Take your shoes off before coming into the house, consider taking a shower before bedtime, or frequently wash your pillowcases, which may remove enough of the allergen to improve your symptoms. If you have a pet that goes outside, consider bathing them twice a week to remove allergens they track in. For direct, immediate relief, place a cold wash cloth on the surface of your eyes to calm the symptoms.

The next step to relief includes personalized recommendations from your eye care provider (ECP). A common medication your ECP may prescribe is an antihistamine-mast cell stabilizer, such as Pataday or Lastacaft. These combination drugs use an antihistamine for immediate comfort and a mast cell stabilizer to carry out the benefits long term. Often these medications are so effective that they may be the only ones you need. When your allergies are severe and this combination drug is not enough, your ECP may add a topical steroid ointment to complete your treatment.

Be extremely diligent in rubbing and rinsing your lenses with fresh solution prior to storing them overnight. This will help to remove the allergens that have accumulated on them during the day.

Even if your annual eye exam doesn’t happen around allergy season, remember to visit your eye care provider if you have allergy symptoms. It may require a combination of prescription medications and environmental changes tailored to your specific symptoms to prepare your eyes now and for allergy seasons to come.


David Kading, OD - itchy eyesDavid L. Kading OD, FAAO
Specialty Eyecare Group
Offices in Kirkland, WA and Seatte, WA


Charissa Young - itchy eyesCharissa Young
Optometric Extern
Eye Care Group of Southern Oregon, PC

Do I Need Vision Insurance?

With the rising costs of health insurance, many people are looking for ways to reduce their costs. Since not all insurance packages include vision insurance, many people wonder, do I need vision insurance?
vision insurance

Standard Vision Insurance

Vision insurance is a type of health insurance that entitles you to specific eye care benefits such as routine eye exams and other procedures, as well as a specified dollar mount or discount for the purchase of eyeglasses and contact lenses. It only supplements regular health insurance and is designed to help reduce your costs for routine preventative eye care and eyewear.

You can get vision insurance as part of a group, such as your employer, an association, etc., through a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid, or as an individual. It is often a benefit linked to your regular HMO (health maintenance organization) or PPO (preferred provider organization) health insurance.

There are two primary vision insurance plans available:

  • Vision Benefits Package – provides free eye care services and eyewear within a fixed dollar amount for which you pay an annual premium or membership fee and a small co-pay. It may also include a deductible.
  • Discount Vision Plan – provides eye care and eyewear at a discounted rate after you pay an annual premium or membership fee.

Both insurance plans generally include:

  • Annual eye exams
  • Eyeglass frames (usually once every 24 months)
  • Eyeglass lenses (usually once every 24 months)
  • Contact lenses (usually once every 24 months)
  • Discounted rates for LASIK and PRK

Here is where you can check for a list of some vision insurance providers.

Medicare and Medicaid

Different kinds of vision care are included in the US government programs, Medicare and Medicaid. These programs are for qualifying American age 65 and older, individuals with specific disabilities and people with low income.

The Types of Medicare For Vision:

    • Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) –Medical eye problems that require a hospital emergency room attention, but routine eye exams are NOT covered.
    • Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) – Visits to an eye doctor that are related to an eye disease, but routine eye exams are NOT covered.
    • Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug Coverage) – Will help pay for prescription medications for eye diseases.

If you have Medicare Parts A & B you are generally eligible for the following vision coverage, however, there is a deductible before Medicare will start to pay, at which point you will still be paying a percentage of the remaining costs.

  • Cataract surgery – covers many of the cost including a standard intraocular lens (IOL). If you chose a premium IOL to correct your eyesight and reduce your need for glasses, you must pay for this added cost out-of-pocket.
  • Eyewear after cataract surgery – one pair of standard eyeglasses OR contact lenses.
  • Glaucoma screening – an annual screening for people at high risk for glaucoma, including people with diabetes or a family history, and African-Americans whom are 50 or older.
  • Ocular prostheses – costs related to the replacement and maintenance of an artificial eye.

There is also Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) which is sold by private insurance companies to supplement only Medicare Parts A & B. It is intended to cover your share of the costs of Medicare-covered services including coinsurance, co-payments and deductibles. For more details about Medicare plans and coverage check their website or call 800-633-4227.

Medicaid is the US health program that gives medical benefits to low-income people who may have no or inadequate medical insurance. A person eligible for Medicaid may be asked to make a co-payment at the time medical service is provided. Vision benefits for children under the age of 21 include eye exams, eyeglass frames and lenses. Each state determines how often these services are provided and some states offer similar vision services to adults. To learn more about Medicaid eligibility requirements and vision benefits call your state’s Medicaid agency or visit their website.
vision dial - vision insurance

Defined Contribution Health Plans

A way to lower your vison care costs is to take part in a defined contribution health plan (DCHP). You are given a menu of health care benefits to choose from where a portion of the fees you receive for health coverage come from money that is deducted from our paycheck before federal, state and social security taxes are calculated. Four types of DCHP are:

Cafeteria Plans – your employer takes a portion of your salary and deposits it into a non-taxable account for health care spending. The amount taken depends on the number and costs of the benefits you select.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) – your employer takes a predetermined portion of your pre-tax salary and deposits it into health care account for you to pay medical expenses. But generally preventative care such as routine eye exams and are not reimbursable. Nor are eyeglasses and contact lenses reimbursable. You would need to verify with your employer. If you do not use all the money at the end of a 12 month period, the money goes back to your employer.

Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) – this is similar to an FSA except you can use it for preventative care like eye exams and you do not lose the money if it isn’t spent within a certain time period as it can be carried from year to year.

Health Savings Account (HSA) – it can be employer-sponsored of you can set up one independently; however you must purchase a high-deductible health insurance plan to open an HSA and you cannot exceed the annual deductible of your health insurance plan. You cannot be enrolled in Medicare of be a depended on someone else’s tax return. You can use it for preventive care such as eye exams. You can learn more about HSAs by visiting the US Treasury’s website.

There are a variety of options when it comes to vision insurance. You just need to determine your needs and ask providers the correct questions.


Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Medical Research Funding Needs Individual Donors

The Need for Medical Research Funding

About 1.75 million U.S. residents currently have advanced age-related macular degeneration with associated vision loss, with that number expected to grow to almost 3 million by the year 2020.

About 8.4 million individuals worldwide are blind from primary open-angle glaucoma, with that number expected to grow to almost 11 million by the year 2020.

About 22 million Americans have cataracts affecting their vision, with that number expected to grow to more than 30 million by the year 2020.

The economic impact of this increase of people with vision loss will be tremendous.  But right now scientist are working on ways to treat and eventually cure many eye diseases.  The only problem is the funding necessary to support this sight-saving research. Here is a look at the decline of medical research funding in the US and what you can do to help.
medical research funding



Susan DeRemerSusan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation

Imagination and KC

Imagination is a powerful thing. It can take you to great heights or take you into a downward spiral. I know. It’s done both to me. Thirty years ago I was diagnosed with keratoconus (KC) in both eyes. Then, I wasn’t sure what it was all about and my imagination took over spinning out all kinds of scenarios. Was I going to go totally blind? Would I be able to continue working? Would I still be able to drive? Was I scared then? Yes!

Imagination and KC
Over the years I’ve been through many of the ups and downs KC’ers face – uncomfortable lenses, vision changes, cornea abrasions, the piggyback system and pushing the limits of lens wear-time. The KC in my left eye deteriorated and a cornea transplant was the only option left. In the early 80s, my surgeon performed the transplant while listening to tracks from Michael Jackson’s album, Thriller. The transplant gave me the vision I needed stay in the workforce. I travelled for business, spent hours in front of a computer, belonged to a bowling league, walked on a glacier, climbed a fraction of the Great Wall, shed inhibitions in an acting class, answered crisis hotline calls, took “artsy” out-of-focus photos and gazed into the innocent, perfect eyes of my grandsons.

Everything wasn’t all rosy. There were highs and lows throughout those years because my other eye with KC kept going downhill before it stabilized. I still encountered all those difficulties KC contact lens wearers face when lenses are critical to functioning. But, I never let KC take over my life. Sometimes after I tried something new, I had to concede that vision challenges lessened the enjoyment and I labeled it “not for me” and moved on to something else.
Juror 1389 - Imagination and KC
I’m retired now and am sixty-nine. Now, my transplant cornea has filamentary keratitis and chronic dry eye so wearing a RGP lens is out. I’m at 20/200 in that eye but am still thankful for the good vision years. My other eye fluctuates between 20/50-60 with a RGP lens but comfortable wear-time is down to 3-4 hrs. Old anxieties have resurfaced. I live alone. Is driving my golf cart over? What am I going to do? “Explore your options,” my inner voiced commanded. So, I tackled the worst-case scenario first – what if I can’t wear any kind of lenses even scleral? I researched tools and services available to those with all kinds of vision problems. I visited the Southeastern Guide Dog Campus in Palmetto, FL in the US and learned all about Seeing Eye guide dogs. They’re amazing! My doctor started conversations about scleral lenses but that got put on hold.

Why? I was in the middle of a huge project. My imagination was taking me to great heights in this project. I was at the critical stages of writing a novel. It required my full attention. Fitting sessions and lens adjustment time would derail my momentum or even force me to take a detour off my route to my destination of having my novel catalogued in Books in Print. I didn’t need high functional vision to imagine scenes and characters. What I did need was a soft contact to act as a bandage to alleviate the pain of filamentary keratitis in my left eye. The soft lens worked! I published Juror 1389 – Dorsie Raines Renninger! Did vision challenges hinder me? Yes, at times. But, I pushed on and worked with what vision I had. I adapted – I bumped up MS Word font size way beyond 200%. I set an alarm clock to signal a stop after two hours of screen time. I removed my RGP lens and took eye-soothing breaks. I used various colors of paper for my research subjects so I could find notes easily. Thera® Tears were constant buddies. And, I asked for help! I formed a 1389 project team with good vision. They read. They highlighted mistakes to correct. I’m 100% certain any reader of Juror 1389 would never guess the author had vision challenges. Why would they? It’s of no importance to them. They’re only interested in what my imagination produced – a good story, a good read.

My message to all KCers is this – KC is a life altering condition not a life threatening condition. Don’t let keratoconus threaten your life or how you live it. Make these two words your mantra – Accept and Adapt. Make peace with what vision you have or will have. Accept it. Move on. Move towards being the best you can be in spite how out-of-focus the world looks to you. Life is not perfectly focused for anyone! Adapt – seek out tools and invent ways to change how you do things. Discover “what works” for you. Learn to ask for help. And remember, imagination is powerful. It has crisp, clear vision. It’s always there. Use it to visualize anything you want or what kind of life you want to live.


Gerry Tickler - Imagination and KCGerry Trickle
Author, web content and greeting card verse writer
She is now working on her next novel – learn more at:

Cataract Surgery and Keratoconus


The eye works like a camera, specifically a digital camera. There is the front lens of the camera (cornea), the aperture (iris), the film (retina), and a cable to take the image to the brain (optic nerve). This “camera” also has an additional lens – the natural crystalline lens, which lies behind iris. This natural lens is flexible when we are young, allowing us to focus at distance then instantaneously up close. Around age 40-45, this natural lens starts to stiffen, necessitating the need for reading glasses for most people. This stiffening is the beginning of the aging process that eventually leads to formation of a cataract. We refer to the lens as a cataract when it becomes sufficiently cloudy to affect ones quality of vision.cataract surgery and keratoconus-Cataract diagram In general, cataract surgery is one of the safest and most successful of all surgeries performed. The basics of cataract surgery in eyes with keratoconus is very similar to non-keratoconic eyes.

Keratoconus (KC) affects this “camera” by causing the front lens (cornea) to bulge. This causes the optics to be distorted. In many cases, this can be corrected for with hard contact lenses (CL) or spectacles; in other cases a corneal transplant may be necessary. When it comes time for cataract surgery in the setting of KC, there are several factors that need to be considered.

Corneal Stability
The first thing to be considered is the stability of your cornea. In general, KC progresses more in your late teens to early twenties, and then stabilizes with age. A very exciting treatment for KC is collagen crosslinking. This treatment is meant to stiffen the cornea to prevent instability that is inherent to KC. This treatment promises to stop the progression of KC at a young age. Fortunately, with age, the cornea naturally crosslinks and stiffens, therefore when it comes time for cataract surgery, there is little chance of the progression of KC. Your doctor needs to choose the appropriate intraocular lens (IOL) to refocus your eye after surgery. Two of the most important factors in IOL selection are the length of your eye and the shape of your cornea. Long term CL wear can mold your cornea. It is important to assure that you stay out of your CLs long enough for your cornea to reach its natural shape. Depending on how long you have worn your CLs, it may take several months for the cornea to stabilize. This time can be challenging as your vision will be suboptimal (because you can’t wear CLs), and will be changing (as your cornea reaches its natural shape). When your cornea does stabilize, it is important to determine whether the topography (shape) is regular or irregular. This “regularity” is also known as astigmatism. If the astigmatism is regular, light is focused as a line – generally, this distortion can be fixed with glasses. However, if the astigmatism is irregular, light cannot be focused with glasses, and hard CLs are needed to provide optimal focusing. If you have had a corneal transplant, I generally recommend all your sutures to be removed to allow your new cornea to reach its natural shape.

IOL Selection
The second thing to be considered is the type of IOL. IOLs allow your doctor to refocus the optics of your eye after surgery. In many cases, the correct choice of IOL may decrease your dependence on glasses or CLs. There are several factors that are important when considering the correct IOL for a keratoconic patient. The amount and regularity of your astigmatism plays a very significant role in IOL selection. In general, there are four types of IOLs available in the US – monofocal, toric, pseudo-accomodating, and multifocal. In general I do not recommend multifocal IOLs in patients with KC. These IOLs allow for spectacle independence by spitting the light energy for distance and near, however, with an aberrated cornea (which is what happens in KC), these IOLs do not fare well. If there is a low amount of regular astigmatism or irregular astigmatism, your best bet is a monofocal IOL. This is the “standard” IOL that is covered by your health insurance. If you have higher amounts of astigmatism that your doctor determines is mostly regular, you may benefit from a toric (astigmatism-correcting) IOL. These IOLs can significant improve your uncorrected vision and really decrease your dependence on glasses. It is important to realize that monofocal and toric IOLs only correct vision at one distance. With a monofocal IOL you still can wear a CL to fine-tune your vision, however, with a toric IOL, in general you will need glasses for any residual error. There is a pseudo-accomodating toric IOL available, and this may be a good option if you are trying to decrease your dependence on glasses and correct some of your astigmatism. These IOLs are relatively new to the US market.

If You Had A Corneal Transplant
In the setting of a corneal transplant many of the same factors need to be considered – stability of the graft, choice of IOL, etc. In addition, the health of the graft has to be judged. Prior to cataract surgery in my patients with corneal transplants, I make sure to remove all of their sutures and give the cornea time to stabilize (just as if they were a CTL wearer). If you are a CL wearer, the same rule of being out of the TL until the topography is stable applies. The health of a transplant needs to be established prior to undergoing cataract surgery. The cornea has five main layers to it –cataract surgery and keratoconus-corneal structure the back layer (inside) is called the endothelium. This layer is responsible for “pumping” fluid out of the cornea, allowing it to stay clear. In all eyes there is a loss of endothelium cells with cataract surgery. I generally perform a “specular microscopy,” which allows me to visualize and quantify the corneal endothelium prior to surgery. This allows me to risk stratify you before your surgery. It is important to realize that corneal transplants have a lifespan and may have to be repeated in the future.

Keep in mind, there is some uncertainty in biometry (the process of selecting an IOL) in all eyes – this error can be higher in keratoconic eyes. This highlights why assuring stability is important. Equally important is picking the correct IOL for your situation. Also, keep in mind that I have discussed generalities in this article. Your individual case could be different. This is a conversation best left between you and your surgeon. In general, cataract surgery and keratoconus or a corneal transplant can be a very safe and effective way in restoring vision.

Sam Garg, MDSumit (Sam) Garg, MD
Interim Chair of Clinical Ophthalmology and Medical Director
Gavin Herbert Eye Institute at the University of California, Irvine

Can Keratoconus Progression Be Predicted?


This article on keratoconus progression is from the National Keratoconus Foundation’s monthly e-update. To receive this valuable source of KC information to your inbox, you can subscribe here.

Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte (NLR) ratio is a new potential predictor of systemic inflammation in several diseases. The aimed of this study, conducted by a group of researchers in Turkey, was to evaluate NLR ratio in patients with keratoconus.
research keratoconus progression
The study included 54 patients with keratoconus and 25 age- and sex-matched control subjects. All participants underwent a detailed ophthalmological examination and corneal topography. The KC patients were divided into progressive and non-progressive keratoconus groups on the basis of topographic parameters. Serum samples were obtained from all subjects, and the NLR ratio was calculated.
The study authors reported that the NLR ratio was 3.27 ± 1.37 in the progressive keratoconus group versus 1.87 ± 0.39 and 1.87 ± 0.52 in the non-progressive and control groups, respectively (p<0.01). They also observed that there was a positive correlation between the NLR ratio and progression (p<0.05). In the receiver-operating characteristic analysis, an NLR ratio ? 2.24 predicted the presence of progression with 79% sensitivity and 81% specificity.

The NLR ratio is a simple and inexpensive marker of systemic inflammation. The NLR ratio was found to be higher in patients with progressive keratoconus than in the non-progressive group and controls.

SOURCE: Neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio may predict progression in patients with keratoconus. By Karaca EE1, Ozmen MC, Ekici F, Yüksel E, Türko?lu Z.
Cornea. 2014;33(11):1168–1173.

CathyW headshotCatherine Warren, RN
Executive Director
National Keratoconus Foundation
A program of the Discovery Eye Foundation

Adjustments Can Help With Depression


Eye disease can lead to isolation and depression. But making some adjustments can help with the depression. Robin Heinz Bratslavsky (pictured below with her oldest son) was diagnosed with keratoconus (KC) 20 years ago at age 25. Now a mother of two who works from home as a freelance editor. She participates in NKCF’s KC-Link.
Robin Bratslavsky
When I was diagnosed with KC, I was an editor at a major women’s magazine. The diagnosis didn’t mean much to me at the time. Things changed when I was fitted with RGPs. I had limited wear time and pain, and I started to feel anxious about my career. There were times I had to leave work early and drive to my eye specialist — several times a week. As a young editor in a highly competitive field, I was concerned these absences would interfere with my ability to move up at the magazine.

When I had my first child, my husband and I decided I would stay home with him and work on a freelance basis. I’ve been doing this for 14 years now. Through a series of corneal abrasions, infections and lens-tolerance issues, I have had to rely heavily on my husband and family and friends to drive me and my children when my eyes would not cooperate. I have had moments of extreme despair, because I am not used to being so dependent. My husband works incredibly long hours, and he used to travel a lot. I was always worried I would not be able to drive my children in an emergency.

As my KC has progressed, I have moments in which my normally well-controlled clinical depression manifests, and I feel helpless because of my vision limitations. My sons are both avid soccer players, and I miss a lot of their on-field accomplishments, because I simply cannot see well enough.

At this point, I wear Kerasoft lenses, and I have had Intacs placed in my right eye. My vision, corrected, is about 20/30, but that can vary from day to day. After 20 years, it appears my KC is stabilizing, so I have a pair of emergency glasses; they get me to approximately 20/60, so I can’t drive, but I can function somewhat around my house to give my eyes a break. I’ve been living with KC for a long time; it’s a manageable disease — as long as you are willing to make some adjustments.

BratslavskyRobin Heinz Bratslavsky
Keratoconus Advocate