Around 42 percent of all people in the US between 12-54 years of age have myopia (near-sightedness), according to the National Eye Institute. An eyeball longer than normal or a cornea that is too steep are the typical causes. Depending upon the severity of the myopia, it may not cause much of a problem in daily functioning beyond difficulty seeing distant objects.
In contrast to myopia, the Mayo Clinic describes corneal thinning or corneal bulging (into a cone-shape) as the main causes of keratoconus. This disorder of the cornea is often progressive, and untreated keratoconus can lead to severe visual impairment. Besides experiencing myopia, two other common symptoms are blurred vision and sensitivity to light and/or glare. At the Precision Keratoconus Center, we understand how to treat keratoconus to preserve your vision and quality of life.
Risk Factors for Keratoconus Development
There is a likely genetic component to the development of this corneal disorder, as 14 percent of people diagnosed with keratoconus have a family member also afflicted with keratoconus. Meanwhile, a research article in BioMed Research International reports the following as three environmental risk factors linked to keratoconus:
- Excessive eye-rubbing;
- Atopy (genetic tendency to develop allergies);
- High ultra-violet (UV) light exposure (i.e., high sun exposure)
Since keratoconus most often begins in adolescence or early adulthood, rapid treatment following diagnosis can curtail the negative impact of keratoconus on eyesight. However, children may also be afflicted with keratoconus, and untreated pediatric keratoconus is often associated with rapid progression to legal blindness. At the Precision Keratoconus Center (located in numerous states in the US), we treat both children and adults.
Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Keratoconus
The most common nonsurgical treatment for keratoconus is the use of contact lenses (per an article in 2017 in the Journal of Ophthalmology). While hard contact lenses were the standard type of contact lens used until a decade ago, it is now possible for soft contact lenses to be utilized by many people with mild-to-moderate keratoconus. This has enabled people who experience discomfort with hard contact lenses – termed Rigid Gas Permeable Lenses [RGPL] – to be able to wear their contact lenses for a longer period before removal.
For keratoconus-afflicted people with corneal nodules, contact lenses may not be well-tolerated. A surgical procedure utilizing a laser called Phototherapeutic keratectomy (PTK) is often performed in people with corneal nodules.
What is Corneal Cross-Linking?
Utilizing ultra-violet (UV) light and a photosensitizer, the aim of this FDA-approved procedure is to strengthen the cornea (and it is approved by the FDA in people aged 14-65 years). As described by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), this procedure involves riboflavin (Vitamin B2) diffusion into the cornea, followed by irradiation with UV light. (The corneal cross-linking procedure may also involve the removal of the corneal epithelium in some people.)
Since the progression of keratoconus tends to slow in middle-age, corneal cross-linking is usually performed in people younger than 50 years old who would otherwise require a corneal transplant.
Contraindications for Corneal Cross-Linking
Not every keratoconus patient is a good candidate for corneal cross-linking. Three customary contraindications for this procedure are:
- Cornea too scarred or thin;
- Sjogren’s syndrome (and other “dry eye” disorders);
- Prior herpetic ocular infection
Notably, corneal cross-linking is recognized by medical researchers for its capacity to halt the progression of keratoconus in patients afflicted with severe keratoconus who cannot undergo cornea transplantation (or are not interested in a cornea transplant). The Precision Keratoconus Center is focused on aiding people living with keratoconus, so consider scheduling a consultation at one of our many sites to discuss your vision-related needs.