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How N-Acetylcysteine Relieves Your Keratoconus

Keratoconus is an eye condition that involves the reshaping of the cornea or the front window of the tissue that covers the eye. Normally, the shape of the cornea is round and half-ball. However, if you are suffering from keratoconus, the shape of your cornea will change into a cone or pointed shape. This will then distort the light that enters your eye and it will affect your visual acuity. The cause of this eye condition is unknown.

Symptoms

When you have keratoconus, you will most likely experience having a blurred vision. You will also notice changes in your visual acuity. Note, however, that these symptoms may also be indicative of other eye conditions.

To ascertain the real cause of your symptoms, you should immediately consult your eye doctor. He will evaluate your eyes and conduct the necessary tests to detect and diagnose your eye condition. He can then recommend the appropriate treatments depending on what causes your symptoms.

Usual Treatments

If your eye doctor concludes that you are suffering from keratoconus, he will provide you with treatment options based on the severity of the changes or damage in your cornea. Here are some common treatments that are prescribed for people with this eye condition:

•    Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Contact Lenses. The use of RGP lenses is usually the first step in treating this eye condition. The lenses are designed to improve your vision and to retard any changes in the shaping of your cornea.

•    Surgery. Your optometrist may recommend that you undergo a surgical procedure called Collagen Cross-Linking if your cornea starts to grow steeper or if it begins to scar. The surgery might help reshape your cornea more towards its original round and half-ball shape. It will also aid in stunting the progress of the changes in your cornea.

•    Corneal Graft or Transplant. If you are suffering from a severe case of keratoconus, your doctor may recommend that you undergo a corneal transplant or graft. This is a surgical procedure that requires a considerable amount of healing time. Usually, a corneal graft can help restore your vision. However, you may still experience having low vision, especially if you suffer from poor healing or if the transplant procedure results in complications. Often rigid gas permeable contact lenses are required after a corneal graft.

N-Acetylcysteine

Recently, studies show that the compound N-Acetylcysteine or NAC may also be used to treat keratoconus. NAC is a manufactured pharmaceutical compound that has anti-oxidant properties. Some doctors use this to treat the following conditions:

•    Cystic fibrosis
•    Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders
•    Bronchitis
•    Lou Gehrig’s disease
•    Help prevent certain types of cancer.

Some theories advance that keratoconus may result from oxidative stress or the breakdown of cells and tissue resulting from free radicals. Thus, NAC may be used to help prevent or slow down the damage caused by this oxidative stress.

Note, however, that NAC may come with the following side effects:

•    Diarrhea
•    Eye irritation on the white part of your eye
•    Upset stomach
•    Headaches.

As with other medications and supplements, make sure to consult your doctor first before taking NAC as it might not be advisable for you to use this.  Also note this is NOT a standard treatment for keratoconus.  There are no controlled clinical studies comparing this treatment to doing nothing or what the accepted collagen cross-linking can achieve in slowing down progression of keratoconus.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

Comments (2)

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  1. Tim says:

    Thank you for the article – it was a good read. I’m wondering about the last part on NAC as it begins with ‘Recently, studies show that the compound N-Acetylcysteine or NAC may also be used to treat keratoconus” yet ends with” “There are no controlled clinical studies comparing this treatment to doing nothing or what the accepted collagen cross-linking can achieve in slowing down progression of keratoconus.” so am asking which is correct: are there studies on this or not as if not, is the potential link theoretical at present? If there are some unpublished observations, can you link to these by chance. Thank you.

    • admin says:

      Tim these are only theoretical. At the moment for progressive keratoconus, the gold standard is collagen cross linking.

      Here is a link to the healing properties of N-Acetylcysteine (https://www NULL.ncbi NULL.nlm NULL.nih NULL.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3420048/).

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