Keratoconus occurs when your cornea becomes thin and weak, gradually bulging into a cone shape. Often affecting both eyes, it usually starts in the early teenage years and can affect both men and women.
“The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped outer layer of the eye. It is mostly made up of water and collagen,” explains Asian Eye Institute cornea and LASIK specialist Dr. Emerson Cruz.
“The collagen is what makes the cornea strong and keep its round shape. A healthy cornea focuses light into your eye, allowing you to see clearly
“When you have a coneshaped cornea, the light rays are out of focus. This is why people with keratoconus have blurry and distorted vision, where lines look bent or wavy. Some are also sensitive to light and glare.”
The exact cause of keratoconus is still unknown. However, you may be at increased risk if one of your family members has it, you rub your eyes frequently or you have genetic conditions like retinitis pigmentosa and Down syndrome.
The treatment for keratoconus depends on the severity of the condition and its progression.
In its early stages, temporary management includes wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses.
In moderate stages, corneal inserts or INTACS and corneal cross-linking (CXL) may be recommended. Corneal inserts are tiny, clear plastic inserts placed into the cornea that flatten the cone and support the shape of the cornea.
Creating new bonds
CXL is designed to treat keratoconus and improve vision.
According to Cruz, “crosslinking involves applying eye drops called riboflavin or vitamin B2 and exposing the cornea to ultraviolet or UV light. This creates new bonds within the cornea, strengthening it, holding its shape and helping the eye to focus better. These new bonds also stop the thinning of the cornea and keep it from bulging further.
“Although CXL does not make your cornea normal again, it keeps your vision from getting worse,” he adds. Aside from keratoconus, the cross-linking procedure can also be done in combination with LASIK surgery.
For people with advanced keratoconus who are not qualified to undergo corneal inserts and cross-linking, they may undergo corneal transplants, where all or parts of the cornea are replaced with healthy donor tissue.
Qualified for CXL
The best way to know if you have keratoconus and are qualified for cross-linking surgery is by undergoing a comprehensive eye exam and corneal mapping test.
Cruz shares: “The findings in these tests will enable us to evaluate the condition of the cornea’s surface and see if the cornea’s shape has changed. Early intervention is important to keep the condition from worsening.
. (Story/Photos by: Charizze Henson)