What Is Keratoconus and How is it Treated?

The American Academy of Ophthalmology defines keratoconus as a condition in which the cornea changes shape and thickness to bulge outward, creating a cone-like protrusion at the front of the eye. This can cause distortions in visual perception by altering the way in which light refracts inside the eye. No single cause for keratoconus has been determined; however, risk factors include genetic predispositions, previous injuries to the cornea and certain diseases.

Keratoconus is a disorder of the cornea that can cause serious impairment to your vision. During the early stages of this condition, prescription eye drops may provide some relief for discomfort and swelling. Keratoconus is a progressive disease, however, and will usually continue to worsen over time if not treated. The LASIK surgery team at Mattioli Vision Professionals in Houston, TX provides keratoconus treatment that can slow or arrest the progress of this disorder to give you clearer vision for years to come.

What are the Symptoms of Keratoconus?

One of the first symptoms of keratoconus is usually a heightened sensitivity to light and glare. Patients may also experience distortions in their field of vision and blurriness due to the deformation of the cornea. Eye irritation may also occur during the early stages of keratoconus. As the disease progresses, patients may become progressively more nearsighted and may experience increased astigmatism. Left untreated, keratoconus can cause significant scarring of the cornea that can reduce visual acuity and cause permanent damage to the eye.

 Am I A Candidate For Keratoconus Treatment?

Ideal candidates for keratoconus treatments include women and men who are experiencing a documented progressive steepening of their cornea. Candidates typically have good eye health and overall physical health. During your consultation, Dr. Mattioli will examine your eyes, medical history, age, and other factors to ensure that these treatments are right for you.

Corneal Cross-Linking Treatments for Keratoconus Patients

Corneal cross-linking, also referred to as CXL, is a procedure designed to strengthen the cornea and to provide relief for patients with keratoconus. The cornea is the outer most clear portion of the eye, where a contact lens rests. Epithelium-off CXL was approved for use in treating keratoconus by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 2016, allowing more patients to take advantage of this innovative procedure. Here are some of the most common questions about CXL as a treatment for keratoconus.

What are Corneal Cross-Linking Therapies?

One keratoconus treatment that shows exceptional promise for patients is corneal cross-linking therapy. These treatments are designed to strengthen the cornea and involve a few simple steps:

  • First, a layer of liquid riboflavin, more commonly referred to as Vitamin B2, is applied to the surface of the cornea. In some cases, the area to be treated may be prepared surgically to enhance its ability to absorb the riboflavin application.
  • Ultraviolet laser light is then applied to the surface of the cornea, reducing any swelling and improving the overall texture of the corneal surface.
  • The entire procedure is designed specifically to increase anchor points for collagen fibers, allowing these materials to bond with corneal tissue to speed the healing process.

The laser eye surgery experts at Mattioli Vision Professionals can perform corneal cross-linking procedures to reduce the negative impact of keratoconus and to improve the vision of those suffering from this serious condition. At Mattioli Vision Professionals, we specialize in providing you with the most practical and beneficial options in eye care. Our full lineup of services includes LASIK surgery, keratoconus treatment, facial rejuvenation, intraocular lens implants and cataract removal procedures that are designed to help you see more clearly while looking and feeling your best. To learn more about our exclusive keratoconus treatments in Houston, TX and how they can improve your vision, give us a call. The entire team at Mattioli Vision Professionals is ready to serve you.

How Does CXL Work?

CXL procedures involve the use of riboflavin, one of the B vitamins, and the application of ultraviolet light to the cornea. This process stimulates the growth of collagen in the cornea, strengthening tissues inside the eye and allowing the cornea to heal and resume its proper shape. Two different types of CXL procedures are currently in use:

  • Epithelium-off procedures are approved by the FDA and require the removal of the protective layer of tissue surrounding the cornea to allow riboflavin to absorb into the cornea more completely.
  • Epithelium-on CXL procedures leave the tissue of the cornea intact and require a much longer application period to ensure full absorption of the riboflavin into the corneal tissues. These treatment methods have not yet received FDA approval.

When combined with Houston laser eye surgery procedures, CXL treatments can help restore vision and reduce other negative effects of keratoconus in individuals affected by this condition.

 Keratoconus FAQ

Keratoconus is caused by the weakening of the corneal tissue. In some cases, this could be due to too many or too few enzymes in the cornea. This imbalance causes the cornea to be weakened and bulge out.

Unfortunately, keratoconus does not clear up on its own. Once the shape of the cornea has been damaged, it cannot change back. Thankfully, our team at Mattioli Vision Professionals is here to help, and we can provide optimized treatment options to diminish the symptoms of keratoconus.

Keratoconus can progress slowly over several years. However, in other cases, it may progress more quickly. No matter how long it takes to progress, patients should seek professional attention as soon as they notice symptoms of the condition.

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The content on this page has either authored or reviewed by Dr. Fred Mattioli.