Keratoconus is a condition that affects the cornea (the clear outer layer of your eye). Normally a round dome shape, if the corneal tissue begins to thin, it can begin to bulge out into a cone shape. Because the shape of the cornea becomes distorted, your eyesight also becomes distorted because light will not focus properly on the retina (back of the eye). This makes normal activities such as reading, watching TV, driving or working on a computer very difficult.
Who Gets Keratoconus?
Many people are surprised to learn that keratoconus usually affects people who are in their late teenage years or early 20s. This is a condition that affects 1 in 2,000 of the general population. The condition is hereditary in some cases. It may also be caused by an enzyme imbalance in the cornea that causes the corneal tissue to weaken.
Symptoms of Keratoconus
Not all patients will experience keratoconus symptoms right away. In fact, it can progress over a 10-20 year period and result in symptoms such as:
- Vision distortion
- Blurry vision
- Light sensitivity
Keratoconus Treatment in Rapid City
Luckily there are a variety of treatment options to help patients with keratoconus see more clearly. Depending on the severity of your condition our doctors may recommend:
- Prescription glasses
- Rigid contact lenses
- Corneal cross-linking (CXL)
- Intacs® corneal implants
- Corneal transplant in severe cases
The FDA has approved corneal collagen cross-linking to strengthen weak corneas caused by keratoconus – and ultimately save vision. It may also reduce the need for corneal transplants for some patients. We are excited to offer keratoconus patients corneal cross-linking in Rapid City using the Glaukos KXL System . This treatment is now widely covered by medical insurance.
How KXL Works
During this 2-step process, our doctors apply a riboflavin solution (a form of vitamin-B2) to the eye, followed by controlled ultraviolet (UV) light exposure for up to 30 minutes. This process increases the amount of collagen cross-links in the cornea, making the cornea stronger, more stable and able to hold its shape. A single treatment may be all that is needed to improve vision.
There are two types of KXL:
- Epithelium-off: the thin outer layer of the eye’s surface is removed and liquid riboflavin eye drops are applied
- Epithelium-on (transepithelial): liquid riboflavin eye drops are applied directly to the eye, without removing the thin outer layer of the eye’s surface
Only the epithelium-off method is currently FDA-approved in the U.S. The riboflavin eye drops used in this process are a combination of proprietary Photrexa and Photrexa Viscous solutions.
While not a cure for the disease, this keratoconus treatment has been effective in slowing the progression of the disease and helping preserve vision. Some patients may still need to wear prescription glasses or contact lenses to achieve their best vision possible.