Understanding Keratoconus

Keratoconus is a vision disorder of the eye in which the cornea (the clear front of the eye) becomes weaker and thinner, taking on a more cone-like shape than its normal dome-like curve. Patients with keratoconus gradually develop a progressively blurrier vision. Symptoms typically begin in the late teens or late twenties. Because the cornea bulging has an irregular shape, glasses and conventional soft contact lenses cannot provide clear vision.

Causes of Keratoconus

The exact causes of keratoconus are uncertain, but various studies have shown contributions of genetic, environmental, and cellular factors. The root cause is thought to be weakening of the fine structures that typically strengthen the cornea, which leads to bulging of the cornea in keratoconus.

Treatment for Keratoconus in Orange County, CA

  • In the early stages of keratoconus: glasses or soft contact lenses can correct mild astigmatism.
  • In moderate stages of keratoconus: rigid gas-permeable contact lenses (RGPs) provide a good level of vision correction but do not slow the progression of the condition. These lenses create a smooth front surface for the eye.
  • In advanced stages of keratoconus: In the past, when rigid contact lenses failed, the only other option for treating keratoconus was a corneal transplant. Corneal transplant is often needed in very advanced keratoconus when other treatments have failed. This procedure requires a recovery period of 6-18 months before a stable vision can be achieved. After recovery, many patients still require rigid contact lenses to see well.

Intacs Corneal Implants

Closeup of an Intacs Implant on the Tip of a FingerAn alternative to a corneal transplant is the insertion of FDA-approved corneal ring segments called Intacs. Made of tiny rings, Intacs are placed between the layers of the cornea to add structural integrity and improve the architecture of the cornea.

The segments push out against the curvature of the cornea, flattening the peak of the cone and returning it to a more natural shape. The procedure, carried out on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia, is reversible and is even potentially exchangeable. The recovery period is typically short.

The details of this procedure along with the risks, benefits, and alternatives will be discussed with you during your consultation. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our cornea specialists.

The Intacs Procedure

  • Step 1: A small incision and a channel (tunnel) are made in the periphery of the cornea to a depth of approximately 80% of the corneal thickness using a precisely calibrated instrument with a blade made of diamond, a precise laser (femtosecond laser).
  • Step 2: Through this incision, the surgeon creates channels (tunnels) through the corneal tissue for the rings to be placed.
  • Step 3: The Intacs (two thin arcs of polymethyl methacrylate) are slid between the layers of the stroma on either side of the pupil before the incision is closed. When in place, these rings alter the cornea’s shape, creating a more normal surface contour.

A thorough eye examination by a corneal specialist is necessary to determine if an individual is a candidate for the Intacs procedure. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our corneal specialists.