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Receiving the Gift of Sight

Category: Health Stories
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St. Luke's patient Laura Miller spends time with her three daughters. 

How St. Luke’s Eye Care helped one woman overcome her rare eye condition

“For most of my life I’ve barely been able to see,” said Laura Miller, working mom of three. “Driving at night was the hardest for me. I had gotten to the point where I only felt comfortable going places during the daytime.” With teenage daughters, this significantly affected their lives – especially during the dark months of winter.

Finally, Laura decided to do something. She went in to be fitted for glasses, but was frustrated to find that her prescription never seemed quite right. After a while, she went to see an ophthalmologist. There she was diagnosed with keratoconus, a rare progressive eye disease. “I thought I was going to be stuck with bad vision forever,” she said. “I was really discouraged.”

Then she found out that there were specialty contact lenses, called scleral lenses, which might be able to improve her vision. She also found out that Dr. Kevin Mueller, optometrist at St. Luke’s Eye Care, was one of the few providers in the Twin Ports area who fit them. She made an appointment and hoped that he would be able to help her.

Finding hope
Keratoconus causes the cornea to thin and bulge. Scleral lenses help by replacing this irregular optical surface. Made from a rigid, gas permeable material, scleral lenses rest on the white part of the eye, the sclera, instead of the cornea like normal contact lenses, and the bowl of each lens is filled with a clear solution. The perfect surface of the lens combined with this solution work together to act as a replacement cornea.

“Scleral lenses work well for patients with corneal injuries, scars or deformity,” said Dr. Mueller. “Fitting may take several visits. Once fit, evaluations tend to be yearly with further adjustments made as necessary.”

During Laura’s first appointment, a map was taken of each cornea to determine a starting fit and power for her lenses. “Dr. Mueller and his technician Joe were just great,” said Laura. “I asked a lot of questions and they answered all of them in depth. I felt really hopeful.”

Amazed by sight
Soon, Laura’s lenses had arrived. She went in again and Joe helped her put them in for the first time. She was blown away by the results.

“I could see clearly for the first time – it was absolutely crazy!” she said. “I remember looking down at my hand and being just amazed at all the detail. All the lights in the room were so crisp. I could see the edges and the textures of everything. I started crying. It totally changed my life.”

Walking out of the clinic that day, Laura couldn’t believe everything she had been missing. “My whole world opened up,” she said. “To be able to see all the trees and the leaves so clearly, or to look at my daughters’ irises with all of the unique details – I’d never seen any of that before. I want everyone to be grateful for the gift of sight and to protect it.”

Eye care at St. Luke’s
Dr. Mueller believes that being proactive is the best way to protect your vision. “Preventative health is more effective than waiting for significant issues to arise,” he said. “Most providers will advise exams every one to three years for generally healthy individuals. I lean towards yearly, especially after 40.”

The providers at St. Luke’s Eye Care help patients of all ages with a wide range of vision concerns. This includes the diagnosis, management and treatment of many issues including cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, eyelid disorders and more. LASIK eye surgery and care for sudden eye concerns or injuries are also available.

“I’m so thankful I can see, but I wish I had done something about it sooner,” said Laura. “Find an eye doctor and go in once a year. It’s so important.”
 

To learn more or schedule an appointment, visit slhduluth.com/EyeCare

St. Luke’s article was published in the October issue of The Woman Today magazine.

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