Keratoconus is a disease that creates a thinning of the cornea or the clear front surface of the eye. Normal outward pressure within the eye causes the cornea to progressively bulge into a cone-like shape. The change in the cornea’s shape can have a dramatic impact on one’s vision. In more severe cases, normal everyday activities such as driving and reading can be difficult to perform.
Initially, a person with early stage keratoconus will notice a subtle change in their vision. As the disease progresses, one’s vision will fluctuate and frequent changes to one’s glasses or contact lenses often occur. This happens as a result of a thinning taking place within the cornea and bulging caused by one’s normal eye pressure pushing on the weakened front surface of the eye. As the disease continues to advance, the light rays entering the eye become significantly distorted, which is called irregular astigmatism. The outer portion of the eye begins to bulge, creating what often looks like a cone shape.
Researchers estimate that keratoconus affects 1 in 2000 people. The disease affects men and women alike and there are no known differences between races. Although the cause of the disease is unknown, research has suggested that genetics, allergies and other environmental factors may contribute to the onset of the disease.
The onset of keratoconus can occur anywhere between the ages of 8 and 45. In the majority of the cases, it becomes apparent during the teen years and slowly worsens before stabilizing somewhat in the 30’s or 40’s.
Yes, in approximately 90% of keratoconus cases the disease will manifest itself in both eyes. The rate of progression and the timing of the onset of the disease is typically different for each eye.
No, historically very few if any people suffer from total blindness from keratoconus alone. But in severe cases, one’s vision can be significantly impaired and normal everyday activities may be difficult.
Typically, an eyecare professional will treat early stage keratoconus with contact lenses or glasses addressing the early vision correction needs of the patient. In later stages, rigid gas permeable contact lenses are often recommended. These lenses are used to improve one’s vision and to brace the bulge in the cornea. In advanced cases, where the patient can no longer achieve adequate functional vision with contact lenses, corneal transplant surgery may be necessary.
Intacs® are specially designed implants, made of medical plastic, which are surgically placed under the surface of the cornea. Due to their unique patented design, Intacs® are able to remodel the architecture of the cornea re-establishing a more natural dome-like shape and improving one’s vision.
A corneal transplant is an invasive surgical procedure, requiring the removal of a section of your cornea and having it replaced with donor tissue. Although successful, it is a delicate procedure with typically a long recovery period.
The Intacs® procedure does not require removal of corneal tissue, but rather works on the principle of reshaping your own cornea from within utilizing special designed corneal implants that provide structure to a weakened cornea. The recovery period is typically short, with visual improvement noticed almost immediately.
The procedure time is typically 15 minutes per eye.
Typically the patients resume with their normal activity two or three days after the surgery.
Intacs® are designed as a permanent solution. There is no maintenance required and if needed, the Intacs® can be removed.
Intacs® Corneal Implants are manufactured from polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA); it is a kind of plastic used in medical devices, such as intraocular lenses, for more than 40 years.
Your eye doctor is the best resource for any specific questions you may have regarding this condition. Regular eye examinations are crucial to preserving your eye health and maintaining excellent vision.