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What Is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus, often referred to as ‘KC’, is a non-inflammatory eye condition in which the typically round dome-shaped cornea progressively thins and weakens, causing the development of a cone-like bulge and optical irregularity of the cornea. This causes ‘static’ in your vision and can result in significant visual impairment.
Keratoconus typically first appears in individuals who are in their late teens or early twenties, and may progress for 10-20 years, and then slow or stabilize. Each eye may be affected differently. In the early stages of keratoconus, people might experience:
- Slight blurring of vision
- Distortion of vision
- Increased sensitivity to light
The cornea is responsible for focusing most of the light that comes into the eye. Therefore, abnormalities of the cornea, such as keratoconus, can have a major impact on how an individual sees the world, making simple tasks, such as driving a car or reading a book, very difficult.
What Is Corneal Cross-Linking?
Cross-linking is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that combines the use of UVA light and riboflavin eye drops to add stiffness to corneas that have been weakened by disease or refractive surgery. Cross-linking, which has been performed in Europe since 2003, is considered the standard of care around the world for keratoconus and corneal ectasia following refractive surgery. This procedure is approved as a medically necessary procedure, approved through most medical plans.
How It Works
The procedure works by creating new bonds between corneal collagen fibers which leads to the stiffening of corneas that have been weakened by disease or by refractive surgery.
- Only FDA-approved therapeutic treatment available for progressive keratoconus and corneal ectasia following refractive surgery.
- Can limit the progression of disease by stiffening the cornea.
- Clinical benefits of reduction in maximum corneal curvature (as measured by Kmax).
Is Cross-Linking Right for Me?
Patients over the age of 14 who have been diagnosed with progressive keratoconus or corneal ectasia following refractive surgery should ask their doctor about corneal cross-linking.
Crosslinking is the only therapeutic product for corneal cross-linking which has been FDA approved to treat progressive keratoconus. This approval offers an effective treatment for patients who, until recently, had no therapeutic options to limit the progression of this sight-threatening disease
Cornea Damage & Surgery
If a cornea is damaged, the light that enters the eye is distorted causing the image you see to be blurry. A cornea may become damaged in several ways, including, but not limited to: injury, disease, infection or previous eye surgery.
Sometimes damage to a cornea is mild enough that it may be repaired to restore the person’s vision. If the cornea cannot be healed naturally, then often your ophthalmologist will recommend a corneal transplant.
A transplant often becomes necessary when a particular organ/tissue becomes damaged beyond repair. In these cases, the damaged area is replaced with healthy donor organ/tissue.
Corneal transplantation is the most successful transplant procedure performed worldwide. This is largely due to the fact that corneal tissue does not have to be “matched” between donor and recipient. In other words, any healthy cornea may be donated to any individual with good chances for success. Donor tissue is stored and ordered from an Eye Bank. Vision can be greatly improved if the procedure is successful and healing occurs without problems.
Why Corneal Surgery?
When your cornea is damaged, light passes through the cornea and can distort and change your vision. Corneal surgery can correct many problems including:
- Cornea scarring and ulcers
- Clouding, swelling, and thinning of the cornea
- Problems due to previous eye operations
WHAT TO EXPECT
Just before the cornea transplant, eye drops will be put into your eyes, and you may be given medicine to help you relax.
Your surgeon will use anesthesia. Anesthesia will cause you to not feel any pain, and even though your eyes will be open during surgery the anesthesia will cause you to see very little or nothing at all. Due to the anesthesia, you will be monitored until you are able to drive home safely.
Once the surgery is complete, the surgeon will tape a shield over your eyes, and explain how to take care of your eye until it is fully recovered.
Recovery Time You may wear an eye patch 1 to 4 days after will be sensitive to sunlight, and sore for a few days.
You will have a follow-up appointment with your doctor to check your eyes. the doctor will examine your stitches, and how your eyes are healing.
Organ rejection is a problem for about 30% of patients who undergo corneal transplant. Organ rejection is when the body’s immune system rejects the new tissue.
Signs of organ rejection
- Eye pain
- Sensitive to light
- Hazy Vision
If organ rejection is spotted early, an ophthalmologist may be able to stop the rejection through medication.