Keratoconus is a degenerative disorder of the eye in which structural changes occur within the cornea cause it to thin and change to a more conical shape. It is a progressive condition that often develops in a person’s teenage years and advances in their early adulthood, gradually worsening overtime.
Signs and Symptoms of Keratoconus
Keratoconus is not associated with physical symptoms such as inflammation and redness; therefore, this condition may go undetected for a long period of time. Although it commonly affects both eyes, individuals with keratoconus typically notice their vision deteriorating in one eye and gradually to the next eye.
Additional symptoms include:
- Halos and glare
- Ghosting of images
- Double vision
- Distorted images
- Sudden change in vision
Causes of Keratoconus
Environmental and genetic factors are considered possible causes, but the exact cause is uncertain. The cornea of the eye is composed of tiny fibers of proteins called collagen. In a patient with keratoconus those fibers become weak, and they are no longer able to hold the normal cornea curvature. As keratoconus progresses the cornea becomes increasingly irregular in shape.
Surgical Treatment options for Keratoconus
Corneal Collagen Cross-linking
The aim of this treatment is to arrest progression of keratoconus, and thereby prevent further deterioration in vision and the possible need for corneal transplantation. During the corneal collagen cross-linking treatment, custom-made riboflavin drops saturate the cornea, which is then activated by ultraviolet light. This process has been shown in laboratory and clinical studies to increase the amount of collagen cross-linking in the cornea and strengthen the cornea.
Intracorneal Ring Segments (Intacs)
Intacs serve as a possible treatment option for patients with keratoconus that are experiencing intolerance to their contact lenses. The Intacs (corneal implants) have been proven to stabilize the cornea, improve vision, provide the possibility for a more successful contact lens fitting, and potentially defer the need for a corneal transplant. The intracorneal segments effectively cause redistribution of corneal curvature that reduces astigmatism and improves visual acuity.
The need for glasses or contact lenses will still be needed following the cross-linking treatment and/or implantation of intracorneal ring segments.
Specialty Contact Lens Options
Rigid gas permeable lenses are designed to comfortably sit on top of the cone shaped cornea. The lens creates a new refractive surface while providing substantial lubrication at the space in between the front of the eye and the lens. Specialty design keratoconic lenses are available and may be a more comfortable option depending on the severity of the condition.
Evolutionary lens designs and materials in scleral contact lenses have made it possible to improve visual acuity for patients that struggled to achieve adequate vision in previous contact lens options. A scleral lens is a large diameter lens that rest on the white part of the eye, called the sclera, and the lens vaults completely over the cornea. Because of their size, the sclera lenses do not fall out and dust or dirt particles cannot get under them during wear. They are surprisingly comfortable to wear because the edges of the lens rests above and below the eye lid margins so there is no lens awareness.
If you are experiencing keratoconus, our Houston keratoconus eye doctors at Mann Eye Institute and Laser Centers will guide you in the best direction for your treatment options! Call Mann Eye Institute and Laser Centers to schedule a consultation today and to learn more about our surgical and specialty lens options for keratoconus!