We previously wrote about how to ace your exams if you have keratoconus. But how does this eye condition impact your career plans and what can your HR manager do to best support you?
Keratoconus – a timeline
A diagnosis of keratoconus often comes in your late teens or twenties – which can coincide with starting your career. For most sufferers of this disease this is the period when it tends to get worse – or progress – before stabilising, usually by your late twenties.
(Note: some people, including those who are pregnant, wear poorly-fitting RGP lenses, or rub their eyes aggressively may continue to progress into their 30s and 40s, but this is rare if eye rubbing is managed and RGP lenses are fitting properly).
What if it’s progressing quickly?
If your cornea is quickly getting thinner and steeper over time, your practitioner may refer you to a corneal surgeon for consideration for collagen cross linking. This surgical procedure is very effective at halting this disease in its tracks, although it can take up to a year for your vision to stabilise afterwards.
Keratoconus – will it hold me back in my career?
People with keratoconus have all kinds of careers. Their vision is only one factor in their success in following their dreams. At The Eye Practice, we have patients who play elite sport, run companies, complete university degrees and get their dream jobs. But this disease is different for everyone. With the appropriate planning and understanding of treatment options, this disease can be managed, allowing you to focus on your career.
Allergy – manage it!
One of the ironies of keratoconus is that the people who suffer from it are often the people least suited to contact lens wear. This is because the disease often occurs in people prone to allergies, such as hayfever, which can make the eyes itchy and watery and make contact lens uncomfortable.
This is one of the reasons that managing allergy is so important. The other ESSENTIAL reason to manage allergy is that itchy eyes demand to be rubbed and managing eye rubbing is one of the keys to managing keratoconus and staying away from a cornea graft.
If you suffer from allergy or find that your eyes are itchy at work, you can get very effective over-the-counter or prescription anti-allergy eye drops to stop the itch. Talk to your optometrist or pharmacist about antihistamine and other anti-allergy options.
What do I tell my employer?
First, get the job! If your disease is moderate to severe, chances are you wear contact lenses. It can be useful to let your HR manager know about your eye condition so they can provide the optimal work environment for you. This may include adjusting your computer screen settings to provide larger, more legible font, as well as placing your desk away from air-conditioner vents and the glare of lights.
You can ask your practitioner for a letter for your employer, outlining your eye condition and the environmental factors that could benefit you in your workplace.
You may also have to ask for time off for medical appointments with contact lens practitioner. But, from a HR perspective, this is generally a good investment as ultimately you will be a much more productive employee.
What about computer eye strain?
Digital eye strain affects many people who work with computers – not just people with keratoconus. But your eye disease can make the symptoms even worse. Make sure you take regular breaks, practice the 20-20-20 rule and keep your eyes hydrated with preservative-free lubricants.
Travelling for work
Some jobs require frequent or intermittent travel, which can include long haul air travel. We’ve previously written about tips for managing when travelling.