Keratoconus is an eye condition that is more common in younger people, unlike many other serious eye conditions. The highest-risk group for keratoconus is patients between the ages of ten and twenty-five.
Keratoconus is a progressive eye condition that can develop over a decade or longer. The eye condition can cause severe visual problems, including blurriness and distortion.
There is a treatment for keratoconus that can slow the progression of the condition. A corneal transplant may be the best option in advanced cases of keratoconus where the cornea is significantly irregular.
To better understand how we can treat keratoconus at Chicago Cornea Consultants, it’s important for you to first understand what keratoconus is and how it affects your vision.
Keep reading to learn more about how keratoconus is treated!
What is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is an eye condition where the cornea, the clear, frontmost part of the eye, thins and begins to bulge outward. This comes with several symptoms, including distorted, blurry vision, glare, light sensitivity, and general eye irritation.
This eye condition causes the cornea to weaken, bulge forward, and thin. Eventually, this condition causes the cornea to become cone-shaped instead of the typical dome shape of a healthy cornea.
Medical professionals aren’t sure exactly what causes keratoconus, but it’s linked to certain allergy disorders like asthma and eczema. There’s also a genetic factor, meaning you’re more likely to develop it if you have a family history of keratoconus.
It can also be exacerbated by frequent eye rubbing. This is possibly why it’s associated with allergies, as itching is one of the most common allergic eye symptoms.
What is the Treatment for Keratoconus?
Once the cornea begins to bulge, the original shape can’t be fully restored through treatment. In some cases, visual changes may be able to be corrected with specialty contact lenses that can fit over the cone-like shape of the eye.
However, these contact lenses can only function when the cornea hasn’t bulged past a certain point. Contacts also don’t stop the cornea from bulging further or the condition from progressing.
There is a treatment for keratoconus that eye doctors use to help strengthen the cornea and reduce the bulging of the cornea. In advanced cases of keratoconus, corneal collagen crosslinking treatment may not be able to help improve the structure of the cornea.
In such cases, a corneal transplant may be necessary.
Corneal Collagen Crosslinking
Corneal collagen crosslinking is a non-invasive treatment that reinforces corneal tissue to prevent further thinning of the cornea. Eye doctors perform corneal collagen crosslinking by administering eye drops that contain riboflavin into the eye.
Next, they expose the eye to a specialized device that emits UV light, activating the riboflavin. This process creates more bonds between the collagen fibers that make up the cornea, making the bonds harder to break apart.
When the bonds between the fibers that make up the cornea are harder to break, the cornea is less likely to thin or bulge further. This treatment is most effective in the earlier stages of keratoconus.
Corneal collagen crosslinking does not aim to improve vision in patients with keratoconus. For this reason, the treatment also usually needs to be paired with contact lenses to improve vision.
If your cornea has bulged too much or has become too thin and contact lenses can no longer correct your vision, a corneal transplant may be necessary. A corneal transplant, also called keratoplasty, removes all or part of the cornea and replaces it with donor tissue.
There are a few different types of keratoplasty. One kind of keratoplasty procedure used to treat keratoconus is penetrating keratoplasty or PKP.
During this procedure, your eye surgeon will remove corneal tissue and implant healthy tissue from a donor. Your eye surgeon will remove all the cornea layers in the treated area during PKP.
The other kind of transplant your eye surgeon may perform is called a deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty, also known as DALK. During the DALK procedure, your eye surgeon will remove the middle layers of the cornea.
DALK may be used instead of PKP in some instances because it has a lower chance of rejection, which can be an issue for any kind of transplant. When your doctor determines you need a corneal transplant to treat your keratoconus, they will also be able to decide which type of transplant is best for your particular case.
Regardless of the type of corneal transplant you receive, you will likely be able to experience more crisp vision after recovery. There are some risks to any surgery, and your ability to have a corneal transplant relies on donor tissue.
Rejection is also always possible, but it can often be treated with certain medications. To learn more about corneal collagen crosslinking or the viability of a corneal transplant to treat your keratoconus, schedule a consultation with one of our specialists.
However minor or severe your case of keratoconus is, the specialists at Chicago Cornea Consultants can recommend the best treatment for you.
Do you want to learn more about keratoconus treatment options? Schedule an appointment at Chicago Cornea Consultants in Hoffman Estates, IL, today!