How To Choose A Keratoconus Doctor

Have you recently been diagnosed with Keratoconus? If so, you might feel just a little bit relieved to finally have a diagnosis for the strange vision problems that have been plaguing you for the last several years. Or have you known you’ve had Keratoconus for several years, but have never been happy with your Keratoconus Treatment? Or maybe you’ve never had treatment, because you were afraid of the Eye Surgery that many Keratoconus Doctors recommend. Whatever your recent history, you’re now looking for a new Keratoconus Doctor, but not quite sure how to choose a Keratoconus Doctor that will help you finally see clearly. Let’s take just a few minutes to see if we can help you figure out to choose the right doctor for you.

Questions to Ask Your Keratoconus Doctor

Let’s start off by considering some questions you should ask any Keratoconus Doctor you are considering:

  • How well does the doctor understand Keratoconus?
  • How long has the doctor been treating Keratoconus?
  • Does the doctor favor surgical or non-surgical Keratoconus treatment?
  • How current is the technology the doctor uses?
  • How closely does the doctor work with the technology manufacturers and lens labs?

These are all important questions when considering choosing a doctor to treat your Keratoconus. Let’s consider each of these questions and even answer a few of them for you.

How Well Does The Doctor Understand Keratoconus?

Doctors who treat any medical condition know that you don’t have to have the disease in order to treat it. But vision issues — especially those as serious as Keratoconus — can be different. People with Keratoconus are forever sitting behind what seems to be a cut-glass windshield in front of their eyes, constantly distorting their vision in different ways with every glance in a new direction.

Glare from oncoming headlights, Ghosting, Halos, Double Vision, Headaches, Eye Fatigue…it’s all part of having Keratoconus…and it can all be made worse by poor treatment.

So if you can find a doctor that truly understands what you are going through, you are more likely to have a doctor that is going to fight hard to get you the best Keratoconus Treatment possible.

Dr. Barry Leonard, the Clinical Director of the California Keratoconus Center in Los Angeles, understands Keratoconus better than anyone because he actually has Keratoconus. That’s right…a Keratoconus Doctor who has Keratoconus.

It’s this shared experience that drives Dr. Leonard to work so hard to advance the field of Keratoconus Treatment both for himself and his thousands of patients. And it’s why, when you are explaining your experience with Keratoconus that you know he will truly understand what you are going through.

How Long Has The Doctor Been Treating Keratoconus?

Dr. Leonard was diagnosed with Keratoconus back in the mid 80’s while he was in Optometry School. He has gone through almost every kind of Keratoconus Treatment invented since then…except one. While in school, he even designed, ground and polished his first set of Keratoconus contact lenses. (Read about Dr. Leonard’s experience of growing up and living with Keratoconus.)

And since that time, Dr. Leonard has not only used but helped to improve almost every new advance in Keratoconus treatment. All together, Dr. Leonard has been at the leading edge of Keratoconus Treatment for nearly 40 years.

Surgical Or Non-surgical Keratoconus Treatment?

As you probably know by now, Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease that causes the cornea to bulge in certain areas. Usually, eyes are mostly-symmetrical and smooth, and so they refract light fairly consistently regardless of the angle that the light enters the eye. But your bulging, bumpy cornea refracts light differently in every direction depending on what direction the light enters from.

Treating Keratoconus with Surgery

Different doctors have different approaches to smoothing a bumpy cornea — otherwise known as Keratoconus Treatment. Some Ophthalmologists prefer to use various kinds of surgery. One kind of surgery involves sliding little plastic semi-circles into the cornea, both above and below the pupil (or left and right side), to tighten and smooth the cornea. However, these implants, called Intacs™ by their manufacturer, resolve some problems but often create others.

Other kinds of Keratoconus surgery involve replacing the cornea entirely with a donor cornea from a cadaver. This is a major procedure that should be reserved for only the most severe cases of Keratoconus, usually where the cornea has been damaged and scarred.

As with other kinds of surgery, Keratoconus Surgery comes with its share of disadvantages that include risk of infection, recovery time, complications from the surgery, complications from the anesthesia, and high costs.

There are alternatives to Keratoconus Surgery, however.

Non-Surgical Keratoconus Treatment

The doctors at the California Keratoconus Center, including Dr. Barry Leonard and Dr. Javier Villalobos, specialize in non-surgical Keratoconus Treatment primarily using Scleral Contact Lenses, but also using hybrid lenses and special soft contact lenses. With Scleral Contact Lenses, the bumpiness of the cornea isn’t removed, reshaped or replaced, but is instead covered with an extremely comfortable lens that vaults over the peaks and valleys of a bumpy cornea, creating a new, symmetrical and clear surface for light to enter the eye.

When scleral lenses are designed properly, it’s almost like a miracle. One moment you are looking through that cut-glass windshield, and the next it’s as though someone has waved a magic wand and smoothed that windshield, giving you clear vision for the very first time.

Some of the Center’s patients have raved about how happy they’ve been when they saw their spouse’s face, their child’s smile or even the leaves of a tree for the first time after putting in their new lenses.

What Dr. Leonard has found is that the great majority of his patients can be treated non-surgically. It’s only a very small percentage of his patients — in the single digits — that may require cornea replacement surgery.

If your Keratoconus Doctor wants to jump directly to surgery, it may be time to get a second opinion.

How Current Is The Optometry Technology?

The technology for treating Keratoconus has been advancing very rapidly in the last 10 years. Thousands of Optometrists across the country use equipment that scans the surface of a cornea to a resolution of about 50,000 points. That’s a lot of data, but the problem is that this scan covers only about one half to two thirds of your cornea. That makes designing Keratoconus Contact Lenses more of an art than a science.

That is why patients whose doctors use technology like this have to go through an average of 3 to 5 different lens designs in order to create a lens that fits well and allows the patient to see clearly.

The California Keratoconus Center is continually investing in new technology. Among the most innovating instruments at the Center is the Eaglet Eye Surface Profiler. This amazing machine, which is but one important part of the cKlear Method™, maps approximately 350,000 points on the eye, including 100% of the cornea and most of the sclera — the white part of the eye.

This data can then be sent to the lens labs to design nearly-perfect lenses. With recent advances in lens design, including FreeForm lenses, patients at the California Keratoconus Center get a perfect fit the very first time in the majority of cases, and a perfect fit by the second fitting over 95% of the time.

How Closely Does The Doctor Work With The Technology Manufacturers And Lens Labs?

This may seem like a strange question, but it can have a huge impact on your care. Dr. Leonard works closely with technology producers and lens laboratories to advance the study and treatment of Keratoconus.

That means he has access to the newest technology, and often helps to develop the technology or the methods for using it.

He also teaches other doctors how to diagnose and treat Keratoconus using the latest technology. Among Dr. Leonard’s credentials are…

  • Eaglet-Eye Key Opinion Leader
  • AOA Contact Lens and Cornea Section
  • Adjunct Clinical Professor at Western University College of Optometry
  • Adjunct Clinical Professor at Pacific University College of Optometry
  • Adjunct Clinical Professor at Salus University Pennsylvania College of Optometry
  • Authorized Bausch Zenlens Speaker and Trainer
  • Authorized Acculens Speaker
  • Authorized SpecialEyes Speaker

This, among other reasons, is why patients fly from all over the United States to his Los Angeles office for treatment.

Choose a Keratoconus Doctor At the California Keratoconus Center

Choosing a Keratoconus Doctor is an important decision for any patient. As you consider your treatment choices, make sure that Dr. Barry Leonard and Dr. Javier Villalobos of the California Keratoconus Center are on your list. And if you’re still unsure after reading this article, give us a call. Dr. Leonard often gets on the phone or Zoom with people with Keratoconus before they become patients. Make an appointment now or call the California Keratoconus Center at 818-891-6711.

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