Keratoconus is an eye degenerative, non-inflammatory disease that affects the central part of the cornea, which progressively becomes thinner and abnormally bulges outward.
This eye disease, in which the genetic factor plays an important role, generally shows up in teenage years and with greater frequency in girls, but tends to stop spontaneously around the age of 40.
Keratoconus usually affects both eyes, even if not simultaneously, resulting in visual progressive disorders such as the loss of visual acuity in all directions, increased keratoconus-related astigmatism and myopia, reduced night vision and impairing disorders like the risk of blindness and of losing the integrity of the eyeball. Sometimes keratoconus can advance more rapidly, resulting in oedemas and corneal scars. The corneal anomalies or damages linked to keratoconus can affect significantly the ability to perform basic tasks like driving, watching TV or reading a book.
The symptoms of keratoconus can include:
- Distorted vision;
- Increased sensitivity to light (photophobia);
- Slight eye irritation;
- Blurry vision
- Double vision with a closed eye (monocular polyopia).
The importance of preventing and diagnosing keratoconus
In order to diagnose keratoconus at its initial stage, it is essential to perform an eye examination on children of the age of 3, 6, and 12 and as soon as a disturbed or different vision from the usual is noticed. The most modern diagnosis uses scan corneal topography systems, which assess the corneal thickness in each part, thus allowing to follow and monitor the evolution of the cornea over time.
To diagnose keratoconus, Vista Vision clinics use the new OCT SLO OTI laser for the specialist examination, which precociously analyses forms of corneal ectasia and the early signs of keratoconus, keratometer, endothelial cell count, pachymetry and corneal topography.
Corneal keratoconus treatment with corneal cross-linking (CXL)
Visual recovery in keratoconus is hardly achieved with glasses; a better solution can be wearing customised corrective contact lenses (corneal contact lenses for keratoconus) created for each patient on the basis of corneal topography, which can correct astigmatism and improve the visual acuity.
Vista Vision clinics use the state-of-the-art non-invasive para-surgical treatment of corneal cross-linking to stop, or in some cases to block, the evolution of keratoconus, which is responsible for more than 2,500 corneal transplants every year.
Cross-linking is a procedure that tends to increase the resistance of the corneal tissue, avoiding the progressive weakening of the cornea and the related visual degeneration perceived by the patient.
This surgery must be performed under monitored conditions of sterility and local anaesthesia, and it lasts for about 1 hour. After the initial corneal disepithelization, a solution of dextran and riboflavin (Vitamin B2) is applied on the surface of the cornea. Later, an ultraviolet ray laser (UV-A rays) activates this solution that strengthens the corneal fibres and the various lamellar layers of the corneal surface. The post-operative recovery period includes daily follow-up visits until re-epithelisation is completed.
For the first month after the treatment, some measures of precaution are required. The patient must avoid saunas, swimming pools, Turkish baths and windy places and for the first months the direct exposition to sunlight without appropriate sunglasses.
Not everyone can undergo this surgery: the patient needs a complete eye diagnostic examination to assess the eligibility for the cross-linking procedure. In those cases where keratoconus is in a more advance phase, resulting in a significant visual reduction that cannot be treated with refractive correction, a corneal transplant will be necessary.