A diagnosis of keratoconus can be devastating, especially for a teenager or young adult with their whole life ahead of them.
This post looks at what keratoconus really means for your career and lifestyle; what can and can’t you do?
1. Fly a plane
Many kids dream of flying airplanes, but if you’re still keen by the time you finish high school, maybe it’s not just wishful thinking. CASA is the government body for aviation standards. They set the medical and eyesight requirements (and much more) for all pilots – commercial and private.
While a diagnosis of keratoconus does not rule out becoming a pilot, it is something they watch closely. With the safety of passengers at stake, it is essential that the pilot’s vision is clear and free from distortions and glare.
If you’re an adult with mild to moderate stable keratoconus and are seeing well in your contact lenses, you can still take to the skies. You will need an annual check up with an eye doctor. It’s a bit trickier for teenagers deciding on a career to pursue. If you have keratoconus, you don’t know in advance how far it will progress or when it will stabilise, so it’s important to have a backup plan. CASA has stricter vision requirements for airline pilots compared to private or recreational pilots.
2. Play a contact sport
Worried about playing contact sports in your contact lenses? You do need to be careful with contact lenses about losing them and also about impact to eyes that are already more fragile than most. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play a game of football or take to the slopes.
For any snow-related sports, a pair of good quality snow goggles will protect your eyes AND your contact lenses.
For team sports like soccer or netball, some keratoconus sufferers wear a soft disposable contact lens over the top of their RGP lens. This reduces the chance of dislodging the lens during play.
Full contact sports such as rugby and some martial arts require more consideration. A blow to the eye could rupture a thin cornea. Discuss your sport with your keratoconus specialist and take their advise.
3. Wear fashion sunglasses
Glasses to correct keratoconus can require a high prescription to correct high degrees of astigmatism. But lenses come in high-index materials that keep the thickness and weight down so you can enjoy the latest in fashion eyewear. Sunglasses are even easier as they are usually worn over your contact lenses. Don’t let your eye disease hold you back from being a style icon!
4. Join the police force or army
At The Eye Practice we have a number of keratoconus patients in the Australian army, navy and police force. DO NOT DESPAIR if your dream is to follow one of these career paths. There are restrictions around contact lens wear in certain roles but a lot depends on how bad your keratoconus is and how stable. Mild to moderate disease where you see well in glasses is usually not a problem for most occupations.
5. Scuba dive
Wearing contact lenses under your dive mask is not recommended for several reasons. First, this is a great way to lose a contact lens. – When you clear your mask, the pressure can loosen your lens and it’s literally a drop in the ocean – you’ll never get it back. Wearing contact lenses in the water is also a good way to get an eye infection. But if you like the deep, and you can see well with glasses, you can get special masks with your prescription built in. Some designs have an insert that’s fused to the mask. This can correct even high astigmatism. Prescription swimming goggles are also available for mild to moderate keratoconus.
What else can you do?
- To maximise your career and lifestyle choices with keratoconus, keep the following essentials in mind:
- Early diagnosis is key to preventing the disease from getting worse or at least slowing it down.
- Collagen cross linking is successful in slowing or halting the progress of keratoconus if the disease is actively progressing in your eye.
- Teens and young adults with this disease should have regular scans to monitor their progress. If the corneas are getting thinner or more cone-shaped over time, it’s definitely a good idea to talk to a corneal surgeon about the benefits of cross linking.
- A carefully measured pair of glasses may be all you need to see well enough for day-to-day activities. Coming up with the right prescription is more difficult when you have keratoconus, so be prepared to seek a second opinion if yours are not working for you.
- Properly-fitted hard (RGP) contact lenses are the mainstay of keratoconus management. Even if you’ve tried contact before – unsuccessfully – don’t give up until your keratoconus specialist contact lens fitter does. These lenses, when fitted properly, can provide clear, comfortable vision and will keep most people out of trouble (i.e. avoiding a corneal transplant).
- Newer design contact lenses especially for keratoconus sufferers include scleral lenses and hybrids. These can offer greater comfort than more traditional designs and are usually worth the extra investment of time and money.
Worried about your keratoconus diagnosis? Call The Eye Practice on (02) 9290 1899 or make an appointment online today.