Keratoconus entered my life in 2001, at the tender age of 20.
Although I got my first pair of glasses at age 7, the struggles with my vision didn’t take shape until high school.
By junior year, I noticed I needed to sit closer to the front of the classroom and wear my glasses every day so I could see what was written on the chalkboard. At this time I was also a new driver and driving at night was a real challenge. My hope was to get contact lenses so I wouldn’t need to bother with glasses anymore.
This prompted me to catch the city bus to visit the last eye doctor my parents had taken me to for help. Located inside the JCPenny of our local mall, all this doctor could say was “your eyes are too round to wear contact lenses.” And sent me on my way.
Me: age 18
I was like,” too round??” What does that even mean? Doesn’t everyone have round eyes?
I continued struggling to see with the pair of glasses I had until …
I graduated high school and started working on a computer every day.
By this time, my vision had become progressively worse and I needed to do something about it fast! Unfortunately, I was no longer dependent on my parents’ health insurance policy, so I had to handle the cost of getting an eye exam and new glasses on my own.
I decided to buy them from the cheapest place I knew — Walmart.
I wanted a cute pair of frames, but since the power of my prescription was so high I wasn’t able to select the rimless pair that looked so good on my face. I walked away with the most decent thing I could afford and they did what they could.
I believe this particular pair of glasses got me through two years until I found myself back at the eye doctor complaining about not being able to see. When I returned to the optometrist located in Walmart, I was then referred to an ophthalmologist who specialized in diseases and disorders of the eye. This was when I discovered something was wrong with my eyes.
What is Keratoconus?
I will never forget my first appointment with the ophthalmologist, I was diagnosed with keratoconus which my doctor explained as an eye condition that causes the cornea to form a cone-like shape instead of the normal round shape, thus changing the angle at which light comes through the eye, in turn, distorting your vision.
Glasses were no longer able to correct my vision and I could finally wear contact lenses!
Although I was excited to have the opportunity to wear contacts, I didn’t realize they would soon be my ONLY option.
Contact Lenses Were My Only Option
During my appointment, the doctor examined my eyes using multiple screening machines and took measurements to figure out how to fit my eyes for the new lenses.
He provided as much general information as he could, then sent me home with a few pamphlets to read, and the estimated date to pick up my first pair of hard contact lenses.
Takes Time To Become Comfortable
I picked up my new contacts about 2 weeks later. While in the office, I was trained on inserting, removing, and cleaning my lenses. My first pair were Rigged Gas Permeable (RGP) which are small and only cover the cornea portion of the eye.
Adjusting to foreign objects in my eyes was very uncomfortable, I couldn’t open them without constantly tearing up, so I carried a handtowel with me. I remember this well because I needed the towel while out with my friends for lunch on my 20th birthday.
It’s also important to note, that you will need a tool kit that includes a lens inserter as well as a tiny plunger to remove or re-insert your lenses while away from home. These items can be purchased on Amazon for your convenience, it’s always good to have extras.
Hard Contact Lenses Are Expensive
One of the worst things that happened was when I lost them both simultaneously and had to navigate life almost blind until I could afford to buy a new pair.
This was a long waiting period because the lenses cost over $300 and at that age, I was always broke!
Needless to say, once I came up with the money for new lenses, I was extra careful going forward.
Questions About Keratoconus
2022 marks 21 years since I’ve been living with keratoconus, so to keep this blog post from being so long, I will break the topics up over several posts. I’ve barely scratched the surface with what I’ve shared so far.
My eyes and I have been through quite a journey and I don’t want to leave anything out.
Post your questions below in the comments section and I will answer them in the next blogs.
P.S. stay tuned for my strabismus story, my corneal transplant story, and a review of all the contact lenses I’ve worn over the years.
Don’t forget to comment below!