Keratoconus is an eye condition whereby the cornea gradually becomes thinner and bulges out, resulting in a cone-like shape. This corneal bulging can cause sensitivity to light, vision halos, as well as blurred vision. The condition generally develops between the ages of 10 and 25, and can affect anyone. In fact, it is estimated that up to 1 in 500 people are afflicted by the symptoms of the disorder. These symptoms can be mild at first, but tend to worsen with age. Keratoconus can gradually progress over 10 to 20 years.
Causes and Treatments
While the causes of this eye disease are poorly understood, doctors have developed several effective methods of treatment in order to slow and reverse its effects. Early on in the condition’s progression, prescription glasses or contact lenses may be able to correct the vision problems associated with keratoconus. However, as the corneas continue to bulge and the condition worsens, more serious measure may need to be undertaken in order to preserve a patient’s vision. Let’s take a look at some options for keratoconus treatments.
In the past, the only established treatment for severe keratoconus was corneal transplantation. Also known as penetrating keratoplasty, this serious procedure involves doctors removing an entire portion of the cornea and then replacing it with the corneal tissue of a donor. Due to the severity of the surgery, full recovery and regaining of vision can take several years. While it is generally recognized as an effective form of treatment, cornea transplantation should be considered as a last resort for those patients with serious and long-lasting keratoconus. While generally successful, possible complications from this surgical procedure include poor vision, astigmatism, and graft rejection.
Cornea Collagen Crosslinking
Over the past few years, several new keratoconus treatments have emerged. Among the most promising is collagen crosslinking. During this treatment, riboflavin eye drops are given to the patient. Following the administering of the drops, the eyes are exposed to a specially developed ultraviolet A (also known as UVA) light or lamp. This light, combined with the riboflavin, can actually strengthen the cornea in order to slow or halt the symptoms of keratoconus. As the cornea becomes stronger, the eye is able to prevent further bulging or thinning, in effect stopping the condition in its tracks. While cornea collagen crosslinking is still in the developmental stages, a select group of doctors around the country have been using the treatment with great success rates. Many patients tend to prefer this crosslinking method because the procedure is non-invasive, meaning there is no surgery (or painful recovery process) associated with this method. The procedure is becoming more and more advanced and accepted in the medical community, and thousands of keratoconus sufferers are already reaping the benefits of this new medical technology. While it is still early to say, it seems that cornea collagen crosslinking may well be the future of effective treatment when it comes to this crippling eye disorder.