Recently diagnosed with keratoconus? Understanding the disease and its management can be very reassuring at this difficult time. This is a progressive disease of the cornea (or front surface of the eye), which results in the cornea becoming thinner and protruding over time. As this happens, vision becomes increasingly blurred, even with glasses.

Who gets it?

This condition is believed to affect 1 in 2000 Australians, (although modern diagnostic techniques may reveal a higher incidence). The disease usually begins around puberty and progresses during the teens and twenties before stabilising.

The causes of keratoconus are not completely understood, although there are genetic factors involved. Hormones appear to play a role too, as does regular vigorous eye-rubbing.

Will I go blind?

This eye condition very rarely leads to blindness. Provided it is diagnosed accurately and early, and an experienced keratoconus expert fits appropriate and comfortable contact lenses, it is highly unlikely that you will require a corneal transplant.

What about collagen cross linking?

Corneal collagen cross linking (also called CXL) is a relatively new surgical treatment for slowing or halting the progression of keratoconus, and is indicated for people who have progressive disease (usually in their teens or twenties).

It involves the surgical application of Riboflavin (vitamin B) eyedrops under UV light. This creates bonds between collagen fibres in the cornea, providing increased strength and resistance to further thinning.

How is it treated?

While some patients have disease mild enough to be managed with glasses, for the majority of patients, the mainstay of keratoconus management is customised RGP contact lenses fitted by an experienced practitioner.

Provided these lenses are fitted appropriately, they will avoid the need for a corneal transplantation in the vast majority of cases.  Eliminating eye-rubbing and managing underlying allergy are also crucial to successful management.

What about a corneal graft?

In cases where contact lenses have failed, or been incorrectly fitted, the disease may require a corneal transplant using a donor cornea. Like any transplant procedure, this is complicated and often results in further need for specialised contact lenses. Corneal grafts last for an average of 15 years the first time, with each subsequent graft lasting only half as long as the last. The longer you can delay the first one, the better.

Come to the experts

The Eye Practice has specialised in advanced contact lenses for keratoconus for over 3 decades. Unlike most optometrists, who only see keratoconus a couple of times per year, our practitioners see this eye condition every day and have access to a wide range of contact lens fitting sets, including mini-scleral and scleral lenses. Our success rates are very high in achieving comfortable, functional vision with contact lenses.

If you or your teenager has been recently diagnosed with this disease, or is struggling with comfortable contact lenses wear, call The Eye Practice on (02) 9290 1899. We succeed where others fail.