Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape. The cornea is the clear, central part of the surface of the eye. In patients with keratoconus, the cone-shaped cornea deflects light and causes distorted vision.
Causes of Keratoconus
Although many theories have been proposed, there is no definite known cause of keratoconus. Possible causes include genetics, a collagen deficiency, overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, or excessive eye-rubbing.
Sign and Symptoms of Keratoconus
Keratoconus often begins to develop in the teen years to the early 20s, although it can develop at any age. Changes in the shape of the cornea occur gradually, usually over several years. In most patients with keratoconus, both eyes eventually become affected.
Keratoconus can be difficult to detect because it usually develops very slowly. Signs of keratoconus may include:
Dr. Rabinovitch will measure the curvature of your cornea to determine whether these symptoms are a result of keratoconus.
In the early stages of keratoconus, glasses or soft contact lenses may help to correct the nearsightedness and astigmatism associated with the disease. As the condition progresses and the cornea becomes increasingly thin, more advanced treatment is required.
INTACS® – INTACS are plastic rings inserted into the mid-layer of the cornea to flatten it, changing the shape and location of the cone. INTACS may be needed when the distorted vision from keratoconus can no longer be corrected with contact lenses or eyeglasses. The implants are removable and exchangeable. If the keratoconus continues to progress, however, INTACS can only delay the need for a corneal transplant, not prevent it.
Collagen Cross-Linking – Collagen cross-linking is a relatively new method for treating keratoconus. It works by strengthening the corneal tissue to stop it from bulging. In this procedure, eye drops containing riboflavin (vitamin B2) are applied to the cornea and then activated by ultraviolet light. This strengthens the collagen fibers within the cornea.
Corneal Transplant Surgery – Surgery is needed for patients with advanced keratoconus, where other therapies no longer provide clear vision. This usually occurs in 15-20% of cases. In corneal transplant surgery, most of the cornea is removed and then replaced with a new donor cornea. The results of the procedure have a success rate of over 97%.
Intacs® corneal implants are clear, thin lenses similar to soft contact lenses used to correct the shape of the cornea. The two half ring lenses are placed in the periphery of the cornea and work from within to reshape the cornea and correct mild nearsightedness. Intacs can also be used to treat keratoconus, a weakening and thinning of the cornea. Intacs implants are FDA-approved and usually give patients vision better than 20/20. Most patients no longer depend on glasses or contact lenses with Intacs. After implantation, there is no maintenance needed and the lenses cannot be felt or seen. They can be removed or replaced for new prescriptions.
Intacs implants have virtually no risk. They are an alternative to corneal implants or other surgery. Intacs are as simple as contact lenses and have results as strong as laser surgery. They do not weaken the cornea like LASIK and other laser options because no tissue is removed. Further vision correction, such as corneal implants or surgery, can be pursued later on if desired by the patient.
The procedure for placement of Intacs is short and simple. It is done in Dr. Rabinovitch office and only takes about 15-20 minutes. Patients are given medicated drops to numb the eyes. Recovery can be expected within a day or two and the full healing process takes about a month.
Intacs are best for people with mild nearsightedness who are at least 21 years old and have stable vision. Complications from the Intacs procedure are rare, but can include infection, glare, halos and fluctuating vision.
You can also learn more about INTACS at www.intacsforkeratoconus.com