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What Is Keratoconus, and What are its Treatment Options?

Keratoconus is a progressive disorder which causes thinning and cone-like steepening of the cornea. This characteristic steepening results in distortion, which decreases visual acuity. It can cause severe astigmatism and and increased sensitivity to glare and light. In our Princeton ophthalmology practice, we offer a number of therapies to reduce the symptoms of keratoconus and help you preserve your vision.

One of the best options for improving vision in early keratoconus is the use of speciality contact lenses. They’re available in the following varieties:

  • Soft, astigmatic contact lenses
  • Rigid, gas-permeable contact lenses
  • Scleral contact lenses

As keratoconus progresses, the individual may become intolerant to contact lenses. At this point, surgical intervention is necessary. We evaluate each patient’s individual case to create an appropriate treatment plan. Often, these include 1 of the following surgical therapies:

  • Corneal transplantation: This outpatient surgery typically takes a little over 1 hour to complete. This surgery replaces the damaged native cornea with a donated cornea to improve your vision.
  • Intacs®: Corneal implants called Intacs are placed within the cornea to reshape it and reduce the symptoms of keratoconus.
  • Corneal collagen crosslinking: Also known as CXL, this is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a combination of B2 drops and ultraviolet light to strengthen the cornea.

Keratoconus is usually first diagnosed in teenagers or people in their early 20s. The disease progression can happen rapidly or slowly and can be difficult to predict. It tends to be a familial trait, and seems to be associated with habits such as eye rubbing. Keratoconus is diagnosed during an eye exam, using instrumentation called corneal topography. This tool measures the curves of the cornea.

Once diagnosed and treated with contact lenses or surgery, most patients find their vision significantly restored. This, in turn, positively influences the quality of their lives.

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