Closeup of an Eye With Karatoconus

What is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is an eye disease that causes the cornea of the eye to thin out. This causes the normal spherical shape of the cornea to become irregular and protrude in a cone-like fashion.

This irregular shape distorts the light passing through the eye, causing the person blurred vision.

Keratoconus is a progressive disease that often develops in your teens and continues to gradually worsen over time. As the disease worsens, it causes irregular astigmatism that in many cases cannot be corrected with lenses alone. The condition usually affects both eyes to some degree.

What Causes Keratoconus?

Chart Illustrating a Normal Eye Compared to One With Keratoconus

The exact cause of the corneal tissue thinning has yet to be The exact cause of the corneal tissue thinning has yet to be established. Keratoconus can affect anyone, but there are a few risk factors that can increase the odds of developing the disease. These include:Heredity – If someone in your family has keratoconus, your chances of developing the disease increase.

Overexposure to ultraviolet rays

Poorly fitted contacts

Chronic eye rubbing

Certain diseases, including atopic disease and connective tissue disorders

Down Syndrome

Treatment of Keratoconus

Keratoconus Treatment Can Be Divided Into Three Tiers:

For patients with mild keratoconus, glasses and soft contacts can provide immediate vision correction. However, since the disease is progressive, you will reach a point where these lenses don’t do the job anymore.

When the condition worsens to a point where glasses and soft contacts are no longer an option, rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses and other specialty contact lenses are the next stage of therapy.

The rigid lens sits atop the irregular cornea and functions as the new refractive surface of the eye, with lubrication filling in the space between the back of the contact lens and the front of the eye. This is the preferred method of treatment for moderate keratoconus but there are some drawbacks. First, these lenses can be uncomfortable for many people to wear. Additionally, these lenses can be extremely difficult to fit to the eye, and can be very time-consuming, and often require frequent trips to your doctor for adjustments.

Once the disease has reached a point where other options simply won’t work, then surgical options must be pursued. One such option is the insertion of Intacs®, or corneal rings. These are clear plastic rings that are inserted into the edges of the cornea and used to re-shape and flatten the cornea to correct vision.

Types of Treatments for Keratoconus

Corneal Cross-Linking

Corneal Cross-Linking is a treatment for Keratoconus.

In corneal cross-linking, our physician will use eyedrop medication and ultraviolet (UV) light from a special machine to make the tissues in your cornea stronger. The goal is to keep the cornea from bulging more. It’s called “cross-linking” because it adds bonds between the collagen fibers in your eye. They work like support beams to help the cornea stay stable.

Corneal cross-linking is the only treatment that can stop progressive keratoconus from getting worse. And it may help you avoid a corneal transplant.

If all other options have been exhausted, then a patient may reach the point where a corneal transplantation is necessary.


Closeup of an Intact on a Finger

Intacs are FDA approved to treat keratoconus. In the past, a corneal transplant would be the only option for vision correction for those with keratoconus that has progressed enough deteriorate vision and make contact lenses and glasses an intolerable option. Now Intacs corneal implants may an option to stabilize the cornea, improve vision and potentially defer the need for a corneal transplant.

Once inserted, Intacs cannot be felt by the patient, and they are no more visible than contact lenses. No upkeep or maintenance is required. In many cases, the patient’s vision can be improved to the point that the glasses and contact lens requirements can be greatly reduced.

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