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Keratoconus Treatment Options


The word keratoconus (ker-a-toe-CO-nus) is formed from two Greek words, kerato, meaning cornea, and konus, meaning cone. The normal cornea is the clear "windshield" covering of the front of the eye. The cornea is generally shaped like a dome or sphere and is primarily responsible for surface protection of the eye and its significant contribution to the focusing of light into the eye.

Keratoconus gradually causes the central area of the cornea to weaken and thin, and because of this thinning, eventually causing an asymmetrical bulging of the normally symmetrical curvature of the cornea. This distortion may cause significant changes in vision which may begin in the late teen years and may not stop until approximately age 40. While keratoconus can be an inherited bilateral (two eye) condition, many patients have no clear inheritance pattern and it has been estimated to occur in 1 out of every 2,000 persons. The earliest changes of keratoconus may require frequent changes of glasses and as the corneal distortion worsens, contact lenses are often required to obtain adequate vision. The reduced visual acuity caused by this condition can make even simple daily tasks, such as driving, watching television or reading, difficult to perform.

Up until recently, in the most advanced cases, corneal transplant surgery was performed in approximately 10% of keratoconus patients. Today we now have the option to utilize a much less invasive procedure called corneal collagen cross-linking with riboflavin or CR3. This process utilizes the application of riboflavin eye drops on the cornea. Once absorbed by the cornea, UV-light is applied for approximately 30 minutes. This combination increases the mechanical strength of the center of the cornea. In addition to keratoconus, this procedure has also been utilized successfully to treat other shape deformities of the cornea.

CR3 works by increasing collagen cross linkings, which are the "anchors" within the cornea. These new links help prevent the cornea from bulging out and becoming irregular. The goal of this procedure is to enhance corneal rigidity, prevent disease progression, and when contact lenses are required, provide enhanced wearing comfort. This procedure is the latest advancement in the treatment of advancing keratoconus and clinical studies have demonstrated its safety and effectiveness.

The procedure is performed under a topical anesthetic (numbing eye drops). It involves gently removing the epithelium, the protective layer on the surface of the eye. A special type of Riboflavin eye drop is applied to the surface of the eye for approximately 30 minutes. The eye is then exposed to a safe amount of UV-A light for 30 minutes. After the treatment antibiotic and other eye drops are used and a protective bandage contact lens is inserted for four to five days to help insure optimum healing and comfort. Please inquire if you have additional questions.

To learn more, go to www.nkcf.org

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