Keratoconus Treatment

Cavanaugh Eye Center offers a wide range of surgical and non-surgical treatment options for keratoconus

What is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus, often abbreviated to “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 large increases in irregular astigmatism and significant visual impairment. The cornea is the clear window of the eye and is responsible for refracting most of the light coming into the eye. Therefore, abnormalities of the cornea severely affect the way we see the world making simple tasks, like driving, watching TV or reading a book difficult.

In its earliest stages, Keratoconus causes slight blurring and distortion of vision and increased sensitivity to light. These symptoms usually first appear in the late teens and early twenties. Keratoconus may progress for 10-20 years and then slow or stabilize. Each eye may be affected differently.

How can Keratoconus be Treated?

Treatment for Keratoconus is as unique as each patient. Thankfully, there are many treatment options available to help patients achieve functional vision and improve their quality of life. Cavanaugh Eye Center provides patients a wide array of services and treatment options for patients suffering from Keratoconus.

Medical Contact Lenses

original scleral GP lensMedically necessary contact lenses are considered medical devices and differ from regular or “cosmetic” contact lens designs. Cosmetic lenses are elective and are not covered by health insurance. Medical contact lenses are custom to each patient, associated with a covered medical diagnosis, and may be covered by your insurance.

There are many patients with corneal diseases that can benefit from medically necessary contact lenses. Keratoconus is one of the most common reasons a patient is fit into medically necessary contact lenses. In the early stages of a Keratoconus, eyeglasses or soft contact lenses may be used to correct mild nearsightedness and astigmatism. As the disorder progresses and the cornea continues to thin and change shape, medically necessary contact lenses become a viable treatment option. Scleral gas permeable lenses are a newer treatment option for patients with Keratoconus. Scleral lenses can provide a previously unsuccessful contact lens wearer with hope to achieve clear vision and a comfortable, stable, and healthy contact lens experience.

INTACS for Keratoconus

original cornea other clip image019Safe and removable, Intacs® are prescription inserts that may be a suitable alternative for patients who suffer from Keratoconus and are have difficulty wearing or are failing contact lenses. In general, such patients will eventually require a corneal transplant; however, Intacs® often delay the need for the procedure. In the meantime, most patients fitted with Intacs® experience improved functional vision with a return to successful contact lens wear. It is very rare for Intacs to eliminate the need for contact lenses and get a patient back to glasses. During a brief procedure, Intacs® are implanted into channels that are created in the periphery of the cornea which reshapes the architecture of the cornea to flatten it and give it a more natural dome-like shape, which improves your vision. Following insertion of Intacs®, a microscopic suture (thinner than a human hair) is used to close the incision.

Corneal Cross-linking

Cavanaugh Eye Center offers FDA approved corneal cross-linking (CXL) and is one of the only cornea centers in the Kansas City area to provide this service. Many Cavanaugh Eye Center keratoconus patients have already benefited from this procedure. Keratoconus is a progressive disease that weakens the corneal tissue causing blur and distorted vision. CXL is used to halt the progression of the disease and prevent the need for more invasive treatment options, like penetrating keratoplasty (corneal transplant). The procedure is very simple and is completed on an outpatient basis. CXL utilizes a vitamin B2 solution and UV light applied to the cornea to help strengthen the corneal collagen fibers by cross-linking them together. For more information regarding CXL and the procedure at Cavanaugh Eye Center, visit our Corneal Cross-linking page here.
original cornea crosslinking figure

Corneal Transplants

original cornea other clip image016 1Penetrating Keratoplasty (PK) is a full thickness corneal transplant. This type of corneal transplant is performed when both the front and back layers of the cornea are abnormal. This technique is best for conditions that involve clouding throughout the entire cornea or for conditions such as keratoconus where the cornea’s shape is severely distorted. Advantages of this type of transplant include replacement of all layers of the cornea, a long successful track record, and a fairly straightforward surgery. Disadvantages include a relatively long visual recovery period, a large corneal incision with many sutures, and possible high degree of astigmatism post-operatively. Corneal transplantation is performed using local or general anesthesia in the operating room.