What is keratoconus and what are my treatment options?
For many years, it’s been long stated that keratoconus (KC) occurs in one person in every 2,000 people. The analysis was derived from a patient registry that was initiated in part by NKCF (National Keratoconus Foundation), over the span of fifty years from the 1930s to the 1980s. That number went unchallenged until LASIK (laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis) became a popular method of vision correction at the end of the 20th century. Patients who had been told they had refractive errors like astigmatism, visited their eye doctors in the hopes of receiving laser vision correction. New technology developed to improve the precision of the LASIK procedure gave doctors a more complete understanding of the cornea physiology. These new testing devices revealed there were many individuals living with undiagnosed KC. What is keratoconus? What are the treatment option is available?
What is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease that weakens the cornea and occurs when it becomes thin and takes on a cone shape. The changes can happen relatively quickly or take several years to develop. Keratoconus can cause blurred vision, halos at night and streaking of lights. Regular eye exams can identify keratoconus early.
Treatment: Corneal Cross-Linking (CXL)
Before a treatment for keratoconus was created, the only option available for patients was to purchase stronger glasses prescriptions and or use rigid, gas permeable contact lenses. With recent developments in ophthalmology, a procedure called corneal cross-linking (CXL) was developed. This medical procedure combines the use of liquid riboflavin (vitamin B2) eye drops and an ultra-violet (UV) light source to increase the strength and rigidity of the cornea. This helps to slow or halt the progression of keratoconus. The CXL treatment is minimally invasive and can be performed in-office.
As with any procedure, it is necessary to have a routine preoperative eye exam. Some of the tests will include visual acuity, corneal topography scans, and an ocular health assessment. This exam is important to make sure you are a proper candidate for CXL.
Patients receiving the CXL treatment are first placed in a reclining chair. After the eye has been anesthetized, the doctor will remove the thin layer of epithelial cells from the surface of the cornea. Drops of riboflavin are then applied to the eye for several minutes and allowed to diffuse into the corneal tissues. Next, the cornea is exposed to ultra-violet light for several more minutes. The photochemical reaction that takes place leads to the formation of bonds or “cross-links” within the corneal tissue. These new bonds or links are what makes the cornea stronger and more stable.
After the CXL Treatment
Recovery from corneal cross-linking is both simple and straightforward. At the end of the procedure, the doctor will apply a bandage contact lens on the eye to aid in the healing of the cornea. Patients receive a prescription for antibiotics and steroid drops to be used on the eye for several weeks. Mild eye irritation after corneal cross-linking is common, but the eye typically heals within several weeks.
Are you a good candidate for corneal cross-linking? Schedule an appointment with a corneal specialist to find out if corneal cross-linking is an option for you by calling our office at 801.568.0200.
Hoopes Vision is also conducting a corneal cross-linking study for patients with progressive keratoconus. To find out more about this study follow this link: http://www.hoopesvision.com/research/open-studies/