Blurry Vision Caused By Keratoconus

Specialty contact lenses offer a nonsurgical answer for misshapen corneas

Daniel Pantoja Jr. is a typical 17-year-old. This fall, he’ll begin his senior year at East Bay High School in Gibsonton, where his family has resided for the past five years. A dedicated student, Daniel is making the most of his high school years.

“My favorite thing about school is the electives,” the Tampa native admits. “I take weight training and gym.”

Aiming to maintain a healthy body, Daniel selects dynamic electives to help him stay fit and strong. He’s also a sports enthusiast, and while he does not participate on any athletic teams at school, he routinely plays sports for fun.

“I like to play basketball with friends and family,” he shares.

Unfortunately, Daniel’s fitness has not extended to his eyes. Since middle school, he has battled a problem with blurred vision that was never corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Daniel has persevered as best he could.

“My right eye wasn’t the best, but my left eye was really messed up,” Daniel describes. “I couldn’t really see things up close or far away. To compensate at school, I took pictures of things and zoomed in on them. Away from school, I couldn’t even learn how to drive a car because I really couldn’t make out objects far away, so it wasn’t safe.”

This year, Daniel finally sought help for his vision at a local wellness clinic, where he was diagnosed with keratoconus. This is a genetic condition in which the cornea, the clear outer layer at the front of the eye, grows conical instead of its typical round shape.

The staff at the clinic attempted to correct the problem by prescribing eyeglasses. When that failed, Daniel was referred to Brandon Eye Associates, where he was treated by Diane Kerris, OD, a board-certified doctor of optometry.

“Daniel had keratoconus in both eyes, but it was asymmetrical,” Dr. Kerris reports. “His vision was reduced more significantly in his left eye than his right. Overall, though, the condition had progressed so much that his vision had become quite poor.

“He couldn’t clearly make out much more than the large E on the visual acuity chart, and that was with his best correction in glasses. But that’s not unusual. Even in mild cases of keratoconus, glasses often fail to correct the vision to 20/20.”

Alternative to Surgery

In addition to prompting the cone shape, keratoconus can also cause the cornea to thin out. In severe cases, the cornea can become so thin that the patient requires a cornea transplant. Daniel’s mother feared that was her son’s only option.

However, Dr. Kerris determined Daniel’s keratoconus had not caused the thinning, so she was able to offer a non-surgical option.

“I recommended a specialty contact lens called a scleral lens,” Dr. Kerris confirms. “I was confident this type of lens would improve Daniel’s vision, and after explaining everything to him and his mother, they were excited to give it a try.”

Scleral lenses are made with materials similar to those used in hard contacts, which are small, rigid lenses that cover a small portion of the cornea.

“A scleral lens is much larger in size than a contact lens,” Dr. Kerris explains. “It vaults over the entire surface of the cornea and has a dome that fills with fluid much like our tears. The fluid in the scleral lens cavity fills in all the irregularities on the patient’s cornea, making it a more regular surface. As a result, the optics are better, and vision is improved.”

Dr. Kerris fit Daniel with scleral lenses in both eyes. That simple solution improved the vision in each of Daniel’s eyes to 20/20. Using both eyes, Daniel sees “a little bit better than 20/20,” Dr. Kerris reports.

“The day we performed Daniel’s initial fitting to determine the type of lens and lens power to order, he was so excited because he could actually see clearly again,” Dr. Kerris recalls. “Watching joy like that makes my job a lot of fun.”

Dr. Kerris has some advice for anyone who knows someone with keratoconus.

“Genetic testing for this condition is available,” the doctor points out. “If someone in your family has keratoconus, you might consider being tested to determine if you have a predisposition for developing the condition, as well as other genetic corneal disorders.”

Since being fit with scleral lenses in May, Daniel’s world has opened up dramatically. Schoolwork has become easier, and he recently began taking driving lessons.

Learning to Drive

“I couldn’t drive before because I couldn’t see other vehicles, stop signs or signs in the distance,” Daniel elaborates. “But I can see those things when I’m wearing the contacts, so these lenses have made a big difference in my life. I absolutely recommend them for people who have the same problem I have.”

Daniel is just as pleased with the optometrist who fit him with those lenses.

“Dr. Kerris is very nice, and she told me everything I needed to know,” he raves.

“Everyone on the staff is also very nice and cooperative. And I like that they have a Spanish speaker. That was important for me because my mom doesn’t really speak English.

“They’re all just awesome people. I wouldn’t be seeing as clearly as I am now were it not for them and the lenses they recommended for me. That’s why I gladly recommend Dr. Kerris and Brandon Eye Associates, to anyone, 100 percent.”

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photos by Jordan Pysz. mkb
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    • Brandon Eye Associates, PA

      The doctors at Brandon Eye Associates use their hearts to help care for your eyes. In addition to being lauded, board-certified physicians at the height of their careers, your Brandon, Sun City Center and Plant City Ophthalmologists are car... Read More

    • Diane Kerris, OD

      Diane Kerris, OD, has been practicing optometry in the Tampa Bay area for more than two decades. She earned her undergraduate degree from Gannon University in Erie, PA, and her Doctor of Optometry degree from Salus University (formerly the Pen... Read More