Keratoconus is an eye disease that causes the cornea to thin and bulge in a way that generally takes on the appearance of a cone. The cone distorts light entering the eye, causing vision abnormalities.
Keratoconus can be a terrifying diagnosis to receive. Many patients complain of experiencing poor initial treatment due to a lack of understanding about the disease. Without proper treatment, individuals may experience a rapid deterioration in their ability to see, leading to a reduced quality of life. A solid understanding of the disease and its treatment options can reduce the stress related to a keratoconus diagnosis.
Modern research has connected keratoconus with an enzyme imbalance in the cornea. This imbalance leaves the eye susceptible to damage by oxidative free radicals. Keratoconus has also been linked to UV damage, excessive eye rubbing, poorly-fitting contacts, and chronic eye irritation.
While your eye professional will have the best understanding of what treatment option is right for you, we have compiled ten of the most common treatments here:
Corneal Cross-linking (CXL) – There are two different types of this procedure, but they both introduce riboflavin into the cornea in order to strengthen the corneal tissue and stop the bulging from progressing.
Gas Permeable Contact Lenses – Gas permeable lenses are a hard contact lens that physically forces the eye to adhere to the lens shape. This allows for the correction of keratoconus. The fit is often time-consuming and may take several different lenses to achieve the proper fit.
Custom Soft Contact Lenses – Soft contacts are generally more comfortable to wear than gas permeable lenses. Recently, some contact companies have been able to create a contact specifically to correct the issues related to mild and moderate cases of keratoconus.
Piggybacking Contact Lenses – This method is used for individuals who require a gas permeable lens but cannot tolerate wearing rigid contacts. Piggybacking utilizes a soft lens placed on the eye first, with a gas permeable lens placed over the top of the soft lens. This method offers the comfort of soft contacts with the rigidity and clarity of the gas permeable lenses.
Hybrid Contact Lenses – Hybrid contact lenses were designed specifically for keratoconus. This technology blends a rigid contact lens center with a softer edge, or skirt, of the contact lens.
Scleral and Semi-Scleral Lenses – These are gas permeable lenses, but they cover a larger area of the eye than a standard rigid lens. The larger area reduces the amount of pressure on the cone-shaped area of the eye. The reduced pressure results in a more comfortable fit for patients.
Prosthetic Lenses – This lens is used specifically for patients who have very advanced keratoconus and have ruled out other options. The advanced scleral lens also doubles as a protective prosthetic shell. There are special requirements to qualify for this lens, though, so check with your eye care professional to find out whether prosthetic lenses are an option for you.
Intacs – Intacs are small plastic implants surgically placed just under the surface of the eye. This option is designed for patients who could not use other contact lens types.
Topography-Guided Conductive Keratoplasty – This treatment option is still being researched. It uses the energy from radio waves and small probes to map the surface of the eye. This detailed map is used to help develop an appropriate treatment plan for the patient.
Corneal Transplant – Patients with advanced keratoconus may no longer be able to tolerate a contact lens, or the different lens types available may not be correcting the patient's issues. This surgery removes the damaged cornea and replaces it with a healthy cornea.
There is hope for individuals with keratoconus. Even though the disease is degenerative, many patients report restored vision and improved quality of life when the appropriate treatment plan is in place. If you have been diagnosed with keratoconus or are having problems with your vision, see your eye care professional today.