If you think a diagnosis of keratoconus is a life-sentence of no more sport, think again. With the right strategies, this eye disease can be successful managed to allow you to live a full life. Here’s how.
Will I go blind?
One of the first questions we get when someone if diagnosed with keratoconus is, ‘Will I go blind?’ This is a reasonable question to ask, given that the disease is rare and progressive – meaning it gets worse over time. By the time diagnosis is made, vision can already be quite badly compromised, even with glasses. But the good news is that this condition won’t lead to blindness provided it is managed properly from the start. A good keratoconus specialist will get you seeing well and comfortably in a pair of specialised contact lenses, so you can enjoy a normal life – including sport.
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Best contact lenses for sports
The mainstay of keratoconus is the rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lens, but these are not always suitable for sport. Putting small, hard, expensive discs of plastic into your eyes can seem counter-intuitive. So, what’s the solution?
That depends on the severity of your eye disease.
- If you have mild disease, a pair of disposable soft lenses can give adequate vision for outdoor activities. These lenses can correct astigmatism up to about 6 dioptres, and, while they may not give the equivalent vision to hard lenses or even a good pair of glasses, they can be very useful for many sporting activities.
Moderate to severe disease requires a different strategy:
- Occasionally, we will prescribe disposable soft lenses with no power, to be worn on top of your specialised hard (RGP) lenses. The soft lenses are larger and can hold the RGPs in place during the rough and tumble of a footy game or tennis match.
- Better still, is a pair of hybrid contact lenses. These can used especially for sport, or, as your main pair of contact lenses. They are a bit harder to fit successfully and cost a bit more than RGPs, but they are comfortable and very stable in the eye. This means you are safer against eye injury or loss of the lenses.
- Where hybrid lenses are not a success, we occasionally fit scleral lenses. These cover a far larger area of the eye and are almost impossible to dislodge during a game. They are comfortable and float on a cushion of liquid, making eye injury unlikely. But they are not to be recommended for high contact sports such as martial arts, where there is a risk of eye injury.
Manage the allergy
Many sports are played in grassy areas, which can flare up allergies such as hayfever that are commonly seen in people with keratoconus. Help is at hand with a range of anti-allergy eye drops. One drop can stop the itch and not only provide comfort, but also stop you from rubbing your eyes – one of the worst possible things you can do with this eye disease, as it can lead to progression. If you are prone to itchy eyes or allergies, talk to your specialist about the best drops to use. Preservative-free drops are preferable, as the preservatives contained in many eye drops can cause further irritation and damage to your eyes.
and don't forget your glasses…
Most patients with keratoconus do not have a pair of glasses in the correct prescription. This is because it is difficult to test these eyes and most optometrists will fail to prescribe the full correction for your condition. But glasses, in the correct power, can provide surprisingly good vision. These glasses may be worn under ski goggles or diving masks or tinted for use in non-contact / low contact sports.
With these management strategies, there’s no reason you can’t enjoy your favourite sporting activities.