Rare vision disorder treated at new Huntsville clinic

Keratoconus is a disorder in which portions of the eye can lose their original shape. (Source: WAFF)
Keratoconus is a disorder in which portions of the eye can lose their original shape. (Source: WAFF)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Kem Roper knows the importance of her ability to see.

"I'm an English professor and also a writer," Roper said. "My vision is most important. I'm always having to read or write something. I'm always having to stare at the computer screen."

This Oakwood University professor struggled in her world of blurred vision, glasses, contact lenses and surgery.

"Eventually I had to have corneal transplants. I ended up having three in all, because the first transplant, my body rejected the graft," she said.

She said now she's comfortable all day - no blurry vision or dry eyes.

Rhona Carter is the mother of 18-year-old Kerri Fearn, also a vision patient.

"When she would turn the TV on she would get really close; she would squint her eyes," Rhona said. "And I hought then it was time for me to take her to the eye doctor."

Kerri's mom said her daughter's situation happened in the blink of an eye. Kerri now wears contacts.  Both Kerri and Kem are patients at a new eye clinic in Huntsville, called the Advent Eye Care Center.

They specialize in irregular cornea and scleral lens correction. Dr. Ken Brantley is an optomistrist and keratologist.

"Our practice is unique in that our specialty and our primary focus is of the patients that come to us, (who are) referred by other doctors because they have a condition known as Keratoconus," said Dr. Brantley.

The cornea loses its round shape and takes on the shape of an egg. It can also take on a "nipple shape," like a baby's bottle. It is a strange vision disorder which affects 1 in every 2,000 people. Heredity is thought to be one of the triggers.

Obviously the earlier the diagnosis, the better the treatment. And for some patients that can mean something as simple as glasses. For others, they're steered toward more rigid contact lenses.

"We deal with the medical aspects of the eye and also the management of the eye from a contact lens base or from a pharmaceutical base,", says Dr. Brantley.

Brantley said patients must understand this is a manageable, although long-term, condition.

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