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What Is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is an eye disorder that causes the cornea to lose thickness, changing from its natural round shape to a cone-like shape. Keratoconus occurs when the collagen fibers inside the cornea become too weak to support the round shape. This abnormality makes it difficult for light to enter the eye, resulting in vision problems such as blurriness and sensitivity to light. This, in turn, makes certain tasks like driving or reading extremely difficult. The condition typically affects both eyes, but it is possible to have varying degrees of vision problems between the two, which can change over time.
A Number Of Medical Professionals Believe That
Why the cornea begins to thin is a matter of some debate. A number of medical professionals believe that certain people are genetically predisposed to this condition, while others believe it is the result of an eye injury or disease, or caused by behaviors like excessively rubbing your eyes.
More Information About Keratoconus
There are a number of risk factors that are more likely to cause Keratoconus to develop. These include behaviors and conditions such as:
- Frequent eye rubbing
- Down Syndrome
- Genetics/family history
- Hay Fever
- Floppy Lid Syndrome, a type of chronic conjunctivitis
- Retinitis Pigmentosa
- Sleep Apnea, a condition that causes someone to stop breathing during sleep
Someone who has - or is beginning to experience - Keratoconus may notice any of the following symptoms:
- Cloudy vision
- Eye strain from squinting to read
- Halos around bright lights
- Night vision problems
- Persistent changes to eye prescriptions
- Sensitivity to glares or strong lights
If you have any one or more of these symptoms, especially if there is a family history of Keratoconus, speak with your eye doctor right away. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the earlier that treatment and management of the condition can begin, so you can start to experience improved vision.
To check if you are a good candidate for scleral lenses, contact Melania Napolitano, O.D. at 20/20 Eye Care in Middle Village or Mineola in NY. Our eye doctors and professional, courteous staff will be more than glad to help you with scleral lenses as soon as possible.
Keratoconus is typically diagnosed by performing a number of eye exams and tests to determine the size and shape of your cornea. Melania Napolitano, O.D. will begin by conducting a routine eye exam to check for overall eye health and visual acuity. The doctor will speak with you about your medical and family history, including any existing symptoms or complaints you may have about your vision and how it affects your everyday activities.
The surface of your cornea may be measured with a special computerized system. This process, known as corneal mapping (or corneal tomography), is exactly what it sounds like: it maps your cornea so that Melania Napolitano, O.D. can obtain exact measurements and details about its shape and size. The curvature is measured with a keratometer, a device containing prisms that guarantee accuracy and stability of the corneal images.
At 20/20 Eye Care, we have the most advanced equipment and modern tools to ensure that our patients receive the highest standard of care that they deserve. If you have questions during the exam or would like to discuss your diagnoses in detail, just ask - we’re here for you.
Like most physical conditions, ignoring the signs and not seeking treatment won’t make it disappear. If Keratoconus is left untreated, the condition will gradually deteriorate. This can lead to increased blurriness, corneal scarring or swelling, or significant vision loss. If the vision loss is severe enough, it may even be categorized as a physical disability.
Unfortunately, Keratoconus is not curable at this time. Once diagnosed, it is a lifelong eye disease. Thankfully, there are treatments that can be successfully managed. That’s why it’s critical to seek the expertise of an eye doctor like Melania Napolitano, O.D., who can look at the whole ‘you’ and create a customized treatment plan for your vision and lifestyle needs. The sooner, the better.
The most common forms of treatment for Keratoconus include Collagen Cross-Linking, scleral lenses, Intacs, and in more serious cases, a corneal transplant.
Collagen Cross-Linking (also known as CXL) is a procedure using special eye drops together with an ultraviolet (UV) light. Through this process, the cornea becomes flatter, its tissue becomes stronger, and it stops progressing into a cone-like shape. However, the procedure is intended for more acute cases, and along with some mild pain, recovery time can take up to 2 weeks.
Intacs is a device that flattens the cornea and gently reshapes it into its natural form. It is inserted surgically into a thick section of the cornea and is the only FDA-approved one of its kind. Many patients with Intacs find that their case of Keratoconus improves to the point where a corneal transplant is no longer needed.
In addition to the above, there are a number of other surgical procedures for the most serious cases of Keratoconus. These can include a partial or complete corneal transplant, which involves the removal of a damaged cornea, replaced with a donor cornea which is round-shaped and healthy.
However, for the majority of patients, the most effective way to treat Keratoconus is with scleral lenses.
Cross Linking For Keratoconus & Why Scleral Lenses Are A Better Option For Early Stages
While cross-linking is most effective for repairing late-stage Keratoconus, it is not recommended for the earlier stages. For one thing, it requires the use of artificial tears on a consistent basis. For another, a patient must be above 14 years old to receive CXL treatment.
This is why scleral lenses are recommended for the earlier stages of treatment. Since they have a built-in area for artificial tears, a patient doesn’t need to constantly manually administer them throughout the day. Scleral lenses can also be used by children under 14, although the exact age that is most appropriate for contact lens wear varies among different eye doctors.
If you are in the earlier stages of Keratoconus and interested in scleral lenses, our eye doctor at 20/20 Eye Care can help patients from all over Middle Village, NY. Melania Napolitano, O.D. will do a thorough, comprehensive work up and our staff will make you feel right at home.