Keratoconus is a disease that progressively thins and steepens the central cornea, which is the clear, outermost layer of the eye. About .15% to .6% of the general population suffers from keratoconus, primarily during the teenage years. On average, onset begins around age 16 but has been reported to occur as young as age 6. In over 90% of the cases, keratoconus is bilateral and rarely develops after age 30.
Patients with keratoconus often complain of distorted vision rather than blurry vision at both near and far distances. Some patients report halos around lights and photophobia, which is the severe sensitivity to light. As the cornea steepens and thins you will experience a decrease in vision, which can be mild or severe depending on the amount of corneal tissue affected.
Diagnosis of keratoconus is completed through a comprehensive eye exam and advanced corneal testing. In early stages, your vision can be corrected with glasses or soft contact lenses. However, later on the irregular astigmatism caused by keratoconus requires optical correction with firm contact lenses. These rigid contact lenses provide a uniform refracting surface and therefore improve vision. Due to the steepness of the cornea at advanced stages of keratoconus, the cornea can rub against the lens creating light sensitivity and irritation leaving many keratoconus patients so uncomfortable that they can only wear their contacts for short periods of time. Many patients with keratoconus also suffer from dry eye, further increasing their discomfort in contact lenses. At Cornea Consultants of Albany, we believe our patients should have a better and more permanent solution to keratoconus.
There are a few options for treatment of keratoconus. While ultimately cornea transplant may be necessary, there are now alternatives. One of the best tested and more common procedures is Intacs insertion. Intacs are clear plastic inserts that are placed in the peripheries of the cornea to help even out the shape. We are also involved in the development of new technology including the experimental collagen crosslinking and Deep Anterior Lamellar Keratoplasty. By consulting with your surgeon you will together be able to determine the best course of treatment for your keratoconus.