Keratoconus, often referred to as "KC" is an eye disease that causes the cornea to become progressively thinner. A normal cornea is round or spherical in shape, but with keratoconus the cornea bulges forward, assuming more of a cone shape. As light enters the cone shaped cornea it is bent and distorted and unable to come to a point of clear focus on the light-sensitive retina.
Keratoconus usually affects both eyes but the two eyes often progress at different rates. This disease typically begins during teenage years. In most patients, it progresses for several years before stabilizing in the third to fourth decade of life. In severe cases it can continue to worsen. In these cases the cornea continues to thin and bulge outward, further blurring vision. Scarring of the cornea can also develop.
Symptoms Of Keratoconus
- bulging, cone-shaped cornea
- glare and light sensitivity
- the need for frequent prescription changes
Who is at risk
Research has shown that approximately 3 million people worldwide have keratoconus. It affects males and females of all races throughout the world. The causes are still being researched, but the likelihood of developing keratoconus is greater if you:
- Have a relative with keratoconus
- Eye Rubbing
- Have had excessive laser eye surgery
- Have hay fever, eczema, asthma or food allergies
The next step for these patients has always been to fit them with hard contact lenses called Rigid Gas Permeable lenses. These hard contact lenses work by contouring the cornea back into a natural shape. As the disease continues to progress, Keratoconus patients can become contact lens intolerant. In years past, the only option at this point was for patients to undergo a corneal transplant. According to most medical experts, approximately 20% of Keratoconus patients eventually require a corneal transplant.
There is now a new option for Keratoconus patient between contact lens intolerance and corneal transplants. This option is called Intacs. It is a very exciting new way to stabilize the cornea and improve the quality of our patients' vision. This procedure can be performed in our in-house Lasik surgery suite, in just a matter of a few minutes.
First the eye is numbed with an anesthetic eye drop, and the eye lids are retracted back with a speculum. The next step is to create the inlets for the Intacs corneal rings. This is done with the Intralase FS laser. This innovative technology is the same laser that is used in the first step of the LASIK procedure. The Intralase FS laser gently separates the corneal tissue so the Intacs corneal rings can be inserted into the middle of the cornea. This stabilizes the cornea and returns it to a state with a more natural curvature. Intacs has been shown to improve the quality of patients' vision with glasses and contact lenses, and at times even eliminate the need for further vision correction altogether.
No one really knows the cause of Keratoconus. Evidence has linked the disease in part to genetic origins possibly made worse by environmental factors. Keratoconus usually affects both eyes, although it typically progresses at different rates in each eye. Most patients with Keratoconus begin showing signs of the disease in their teen years, then see the condition gradually worsen, and finally stabilize in their 30s or 40s. In past years, the diagnoses of Keratoconus was a very grim one. Now with advanced surgical techniques and the use of Intacs, I am able to help my Keratoconus patients have a great quality of life with normal vision.