What is Keratoconus?
- Keratoconus affects 1 out of every 2,000 people.
- Keratoconus can affect anyone at any age (usually diagnosed in late teens or early 20’s).
- There are no race, cultural, or environmental conditions that have been proven to cause Keratoconus.
As Keratoconus progresses, the cornea thins out and the corneal shape becomes irregular causing astigmatism and blurry vision.
The Symptoms of Keratoconus
When keratoconus develops, a patient may experience eye strain, headaches, and general eye pain. You may have eye irritation, increased sensitivity to light, and halos or “ghosting” of images. You may also have increased difficulty with your vision while driving at night.
All of these symptoms can also be indicative of other eye conditions or serious eye diseases. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these conditions, it is important to seek a consultation with one of our highly trained doctors. Only a doctor trained in diagnosing keratoconus can determine if you have this condition or any other serious eye diseases.
Treatments for Keratoconus
Corneal Collagen Crosslinking (CXL) is a new procedure that has been proven to stop the progression of the condition in almost all patients. More impressively, CXL has been shown to reverse kerataconus in over 60% of treated patients.
Corneal Cross Linking works by creating strong bonds between the collagen fibers of the cornea. These fibers are weak in patients with kerataconus. By strengthening these corneal collagen fibers, the cornea becomes stronger and more rigid and the progression of kerataconus is stopped, nearly eliminating the need for a corneal transplant in the future.
Corneal Cross Linking is a simple procedure performed in the office. Riboflavin drops are placed onto the cornea over the course of 30 minutes. Then, a special ultraviolet light is applied to the cornea for a total of 5 minutes. The UV light reacts with the riboflavin to create additional collagen crosslinks, thus strengthening the cornea.
Once CXL has been performed, the use of glasses and/or contact lenses will still be needed to account for the distortion of vision that has already occurred as a result of keratoconus.
Glasses or Soft Contact Lenses
Initially when someone has keratoconus, glasses or soft contact lenses can be used to help deal with the progressive astigmatism. Glasses and soft contact lenses work well only up to relatively low levels of astigmatism. Once higher levels of astigmatism are reached, patients often achieve better vision with rigid gas permeable contact lenses.
Rigid Gas Permeable Contacts
Eventually keratoconus will progress beyond the point where traditional glasses or soft contacts can be of assistance. When this happens, our doctors will prescribe rigid gas permeable contacts. These contacts will provide a hard surface in which the cornea’s irregular shape is smoothed back into a dome shape again.
The key to gas permeable contacts is having a precise fit. The user must be measured accurately in order to provide the perfect fit for your unique eyes.
In about 15-20% of keratoconus cases, it becomes necessary for the patient to receive a full corneal transplant. This decision comes after the patient becomes intolerant of contact lenses or sight can no longer be corrected by contacts. Find out more about the corneal transplant procedure here.
We have found that our keratoconus patients tend to have a lot of questions about their condition, as well as possible treatments. Give us a call to set up an appointment. We will be happy to discuss any questions and concerns you may have, as well as recommend the best course of action for treating your condition.
If you suspect you may have keratoconus, seek the consult of a physician at MedEye Associates immediately by calling us at 305-661-8588. If your family has a history of keratoconus, please schedule regular check-ups.
Corneal transplantation is an out-patient procedure during which the diseased cornea is removed and replaced by a healthy donor cornea. A tool called a trephine is used to cut the small “button” of tissue from both the patient and the donor, to ensure the size is exactly the same. The surgeon then sutures the tissue into place.
After the procedure, you will be required to wear a patch until the outer layer of the cornea, or the epithelium, heals. Our doctors will determine when the patch is no longer needed. Protection must be used so as to prevent any trauma to the eye. The sutures are very small and fine, and because there is no blood flow to the cornea, your eye will be slow to heal. Glasses are required during the day and a protective covering should be used at night.