What is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is an eye condition in which the cornea progressively thins, and its normal dome-shape develops a cone-like bulge. This results in major visual impairment that can prevent one from performing basic tasks, like driving, working on a computer, or reading a book. The cornea is the transparent, outermost lens of the eye’s surface. Along with protecting the eye from dust and other debris, it controls focus and the entry of light into the eye.
What are the early symptoms of keratoconus?
In its earliest stages, keratoconus causes a slight blurring or cloudiness and/or distorted vision, along with, an increased sensitivity to light. These symptoms typically first appear during a patient’s late teens or early twenties. Symptoms may progress for, as much as 20 years, before slowing down and stabilizing. Each eye can react differently.
What causes Keratoconus?
The cause is not entirely understood, however, keratoconus may is believed to be, in part, associated with eye rubbing and likely has a genetic component, although only 13% to 15% of those who are afflicted with keratoconus, a family member with the disease.
What treatment options are there for Keratoconus?
Treatment depends on both the severity of the disease and how rapidly it’s progressing. The options include:
- Contact lenses. In its earliest stages, keratoconus, may be treated with glasses or various contact lenses. Initially, soft contact lenses are used, but as the condition progresses, and the corneal shape changes, rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses are often required to improve vision.
- Corneal collagen crosslinking. This is an innovative new, yet simple and totally pain-free procedure that can stop the progression of keratoconus, and in about 50% of patients, can actually help flatten out the corneal bulge, resulting in improved vision. The procedure is performed under a local anesthetic. In the first step, a surgeon removes the cornea and applies riboflavin (Vitamin B2) drops directly to the eye. Next, UV light is applied to the cornea. Once these two steps are completed, a temporary contact is placed on the eye to protect it for the next few days. During this time, the patient continues to administer B2 eye drops at home.
- Intacs. This treatment involves the placement of inserts on the cornea, that may help to reshape the cornea and slow the disease’s progression.
- Corneal transplant. A corneal transplant is a last-line treatment option, reserved for patients with advanced keratoconus who it’s determined would not benefit from glasses, contact lenses or corneal collagen crosslinking.
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