New technologies founded within the last decade have assisted medical professionals across all care spectrums in diagnosing patients and treating conditions that may arise. At Everett & Hurite, that new technology is allowing us to take the necessary steps to evaluate and treat a myriad of eye conditions our patients may have. Recently, for example, our offices purchased a new UV therapy that can treat progressive eye diseases like keratoconus - an eye disease that is becoming more and more common, and which requires a specialized approach to ensure proper care is delivered.
What is keratoconus?
Keratoconus is an eye disease that causes the cornea to thin and bulge outward in the shape of a cone. This is due to a weakening of small fibers, or collagen, in the eye that give the cornea its shape. What causes this weakening and eventual bulging remains a mystery - but with an estimated 1 in 750 people in the United States currently diagnosed with keratoconus, it has become one of the most prevalent corneal diseases.
Symptoms include blurred or distorted vision, double vision, sensitivity to light, and nearsightedness. And while an exact cause of the disease is unknown, some speculated causes or contributing factors include genetics, excessive eye rubbing, eye irritation, the use of improperly sized contact lenses, a complication of laser correction vision, or corneal damage.
How can we treat keratoconus?
Treating keratoconus is critical in preventing the worst of its symptoms. One of the best known treatments for keratoconus is cross-corneal linking, which can help to strengthen the cornea. Cross-corneal linking is an FDA approved procedure that assists in the treatment of this disease. Liquid riboflavin, or Vitamin B2, and ultraviolet light are used to stiffen the cornea and halt the progression of keratoconus. The use of riboflavin encourages the enhancement and development of stronger corneal collagen cross-links, while the UV light assists in stiffening the tissues and cells within the cornea itself.
Two processes have been associated with this treatment: epi-on and epi-off:
- The epi-on treatment involves leaving the epithelial layer of the cornea unharmed and is generally less painful with a shorter recovery period.
- Epi-off involves removing the epithelial layer for a much faster approach in applying the liquid riboflavin. This process is more efficient to cross-corneal linking, but the recovery time is longer; there’s a greater chance of infection; and patients may experience more pain during their procedure. This method, however, is the most effective at present.
How can I arrange care for my diagnosis?
As with any health issue, the first step in care for keratoconus is a proper diagnosis. A treatment plan can only be developed upon the completion of a comprehensive exam and, if necessary, follow-up testing. Patients over the age of 14 who receive a diagnosis of keratoconus will be able to begin the discussion about care options with their doctor following a confirmation.
If you have concerns about keratoconus or other eye conditions, we invite you to contact Everett & Hurite to discuss your care options. Our specialized staff will guide you through the process of diagnosing any eye illnesses that may need treatment, and will ensure that your care is properly coordinated based on your individual eye health needs. If you are interested in being examined for keratoconus or a similar condition, contact your nearest location today to schedule an appointment.