Understanding Keratoconus

What is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus or “KC” is a non-inflammatory eye condition in which the normally round dome-shaped cornea progressively thins causing a cone-like bulge to develop. This results in significant visual impairment.​​​​​​​ Keratoconus affects all genders and is found in all ethnic groups. It occurs in one out of every 2,000 people in the United States.

Signs & Symptoms of Keratoconus

Symptoms of early Keratoconus are a slight blurring of vision and declining vision that cannot be easily corrected. Other symptoms include seeing a glare around lights, poor night vision, eye irritation or pain and associated headaches, increased sensitivity to light and vision clouding. Symptoms usually being appearing in the late teens and early 20s.

Photograph of an eye with Keratoconus

Macro eye photo. Keratoconus – eye disease, thinning of the cornea in the form of a cone.

The importance of Early Diagnosis

KC is a progressive condition which worsens over time, so early diagnosis is critical.

Not long ago, a diagnosis of progressive keratoconus left patients with few treatment options. Today, Glaukos’ iLink procedure with Photrexa® Viscous (riboflavin 5′-phosphate in 20% dextran ophthalmic solution), Photrexa® (riboflavin 5′-phosphate in ophthalmic solution), and KXL® system are FDA-approved and provide patients with a one-time, minimally invasive therapeutic treatment to limit the progression of their condition.

Diagnosing Keratoconus

Your doctor will review your medical history and perform a complete eye exam and if Keratoconus is a concern, additional tests may be required. Additional diagnostic tools for Keratoconus include Corneal Topography, which measures the curve of the cornea, a slit-lamp exam which can detect corneal abnormalities and Pachymetry, which measures the thinnest areas of the cornea.

Treatment of Keratoconus

The early stages of Keratoconus can be treated with glasses for nearsightedness and astigmatism. As symptoms progress, patients will need to switch to a contact lens, usually a hard contact lens.

For more advanced Keratoconus, an available treatment is corneal collagen cross-linking. This is a one-time, in-office procedure that involves applying a solution of vitamin B to the eye and activating the solution with ultraviolet light. The solution helps new collagen bonds to form, preserving corneal strength and shape. This treatment cannot make the cornea normal again, but can stop the progression of Keratoconus and in some cases may improve vision.

Glaukos iLink Cross-Linking Procedure is the only FDA-approved cross-linking procedure in the US.The medical necessity of FDA-approved iLink® corneal cross-linking has become widely recognized.  As a result, the procedure is covered by over 95% of commercial insurance providers. For additional information on insurance coverage and to view the latest list of insurers that are known to have policies that cover cross-linking, visit the Insurance Information page on LivingwithKeratoconus.com.

Another option is a corneal ring, which can be implanted in the eye to flatten the surface of the cornea, creating improvement in vision and more comfort for wearing hard contact lenses. This can also be down as an in-office procedure and only takes about 15 minutes.

For severe cases, a corneal transplant may be performed, replacing the damaged cornea with a healthy donor cornea. These transplants are often performed as outpatient surgery. In most cases, glasses or contacts are still required for optimum vision.

Preventative Care

With any eye disease, early detection is key. Consistent preventative care will help us in managing and slowing or halting the progression of Keratoconus. Be sure to visit us once a year for an annual eye exam; should we detect any abnormalities during your exam, we are able to do many of the additional diagnostic tests onsite in any of our offices. We also work to co-manage additional care with our regional vision care partners.

Make eye health a priority and book an annual exam at any of our six locations in Washington state.

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