Understanding How to Manage Keratoconus & Altitude

What is Keratoconus?

For those of you who don’t know Keratoconus is a progressive condition created by the change in the shape of the cornea over time. As the cornea continues to change to a cone shape, the images your eyes see become more distorted. Over time it can cause a severe loss of vision. Keratoconus can be passed through families, physical, and/or environmental factors as well.

Treatment Options for Keratoconus:

There are several treatment options for Keratoconus. Finding the right treatment option depends on the stage of your condition, the progression of your condition (sometimes it progresses faster in one eye than it does in other).

Keratoconus treatment options include:

Glasses or contacts in early stages to improve vision and correct the prescription

Non-invasive Holcomb C3-R (cornea crosslinking) treatment to stabilize eyes

INTACS to help reshape the cornea and improve cornea transplant

Cornea transplant when too advanced for other treatments

Keratoconus & Altitude:

For those who enjoy the outdoors we often get worried when we hear that our eyes are damaged. This brings up many questions like “How will this affect me when I am climbing?” or “Will I still be able to climb?”

Is Altitude Safe With Keratoconus?

Yes, as long as you take precautions. If you are at a severe stage of Keratoconus it is not wise to travel in high altitudes. At times vision can blur in high altitudes and when you already have reduced vision due to advanced Keratoconus, this is not an additional risk you want to take. But if your Keratoconus has been treated and is stable, you can travel in high altitudes with less risk and concern. Making sure you have the proper guide and they are aware of your condition or you have other with you that can assist should you need it. Additionally making sure that you pay attention to what your eyes are doing as it can tell you best how far to go.

Will it Affect Me While I Climb?

Often times those who have Keratoconus can experience dry eyes, and Altitude sickness in elevations above 16,000 ft. Dry eyes can be treated easy enough but while climbing it can affect your vision. Take along artificial tears. If you experience decline in vision or drying, try instilling a drop of artificial tears, this often will improve the situation. Making sure that you have treatments to stabilize your Keratoconus before going out may help you get back safely too by have security in stable vision.

Getting a diagnosis of Keratoconus can be scary, especially if you have had a family member with the condition. However there are many new treatment options that can improve your quality of vision, slow, or even in some cases stop the progression of the condition. Understand you can have a full and exciting life with Keratoconus.

For more information about keratoconus visit the American Keratoconus Association

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