Keratoconus is a rare disease that causes your corneal structure to weaken. As a result, the healthy ball shape of your cornea cannot be maintained. Instead of a smoothly rounded dome, your cornea bulges into a cone shape that leads to distorted vision, because light isn’t reflected properly as it enters the eye. Keratoconus is progressive, worsening over time.
Dr. Chirag R. Patel, your highly qualified and experienced keratoconus eye doctor in San Leandro, specializes in treating this corneal disorder. At Turner Eye Institute, we use advanced technologies to offer precise diagnoses and effective, cutting-edge treatments for keratoconus.
Who gets keratoconus?
Keratoconus is relatively uncommon, with only about one person out of every 2,000 having it. In general, it runs in families, typically appearing first during the teenage years. The rate of progression of keratoconus varies between individuals; it can worsen slowly or quickly.
Because it tends to be genetic, we recommend that if you are aware of keratoconus in your family eye history – book regular comprehensive eye exams for you and your children with our keratoconus specialist doctor in San Leandro, California.
What causes keratoconus?
Normally, tiny collagen fibers hold your cornea in place. To preserve the integrity of these fibers, your cornea has protective antioxidants that destroy the damaging by-products naturally produced by healthy corneal cells. If the amount of these protective antioxidants is compromised, the surplus of hazardous by-products weakens the collagen fibers and they become too fragile to preserve the proper rounded form of a healthy cornea. Keratoconus is the result.
Along with genetics, some types of eye injuries and eye diseases are typically responsible for the development of keratoconus. Specific ocular conditions, such as retinopathy of prematurity, retinitis pigmentosa, and vernal keratoconjunctivitis are associated with this corneal disorder. Also, several systemic conditions have been linked to a higher incidence of keratoconus, such as Down syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Leber's congenital amaurosis and osteogenesis imperfect.
Dr. Chirag R. Patel is your leading keratoconus specialist doctor in San Leandro, experienced in diagnosing the specific levels of keratoconus and other corneal disorders.
What are the symptoms of keratoconus?
As your cornea bulges into a cone shape, it affects your vision in two particular ways:
- Your smooth corneal surface becomes wavy, called irregular astigmatism
- Your vision becomes increasingly nearsighted, and focusing becomes impossible without prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses
Generally, these symptoms begin during teenagehood and continue to progress until you are in your 30s or 40s. The symptoms usually appear in both eyes. Your vision prescription will change frequently and wearing contact lenses will become uncomfortable due to an improper fit over your irregular corneal surface. As keratoconus gets more severe, the cornea can swell and form scar tissue. At this point, you may find it extremely difficult to read or drive. Keratoconus does not typically lead to blindness.
When patients visit our keratoconus specialist doctor in San Leandro, they often have these common visual symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Objects appear distorted, both near and distant
- Seeing glare and halos around bright lights at night
- Streaking of lights
- Double vision from just one eye
- Sudden change of vision in only one eye
- Triple ghost images
Diagnosing keratoconus in San Leandro
Dr. Chirag R. Patel will perform a thorough and detailed eye exam in order to diagnose keratoconus. It is essential to inform us about any symptoms that you’ve noticed. In order to diagnose a corneal disorder, we will use Computerized Corneal Topography to measure the shape of your cornea. This device records an image of your cornea and analyzes the surface instantly. As the leading keratoconus specialist doctor in San Leandro, we equip our office with the latest corneal mapping technologies in order to ensure a precise diagnosis.
Keratoconus treatment in San Leandro
We are proud to offer progressive, effective treatments for keratoconus. Generally, the initial treatment is to prescribe eyeglasses to correct your vision. Once eyeglasses are no longer helpful, we will fit you with rigid gas permeable contact lenses that gently flatten your bulging cornea. This can help improve vision significantly. To ensure the most comfortable fit, our keratoconus specialist will use the measurements from your corneal topography mapping to make customized contacts.
If your disease progresses to the point that contact lenses are no longer able to sufficiently sharpen your vision, we offer alternative, advanced treatments in our San Leandro eye care clinic:
Scleral contact lenses have an extra-wide diameter that vaults over the entire cornea and rests on the whites of your eyes (the sclera). Many patients experience greater comfort with sclerals, because they do not touch the corneal surface, and they generally move around less when you move your eyes. If your keratoconus worsens, we will refit your scleral lenses accordingly.
During a quick surgical procedure (about 10 minutes), small plastic inserts called intacs are placed under the eye’s surface in the edges of the cornea. Intacs can help reshape the cornea to provide sharper vision. This treatment of keratoconus may be advised for patients who have lost functional eyesight. Intacs can postpone the need for a corneal transplant.
PTK for severe keratoconus
Keratoconus that has progressed severely overstretches the collagen fibers and can lead to extreme scarring. If the back tissues of your cornea tear as a result, inflammation can occur, which usually takes months to disappear. During that time, a large scar generally forms. PTK, a procedure that our keratoconus specialist in San Leandro performs, can smooth out this scar and promote higher comfort when wearing contact lenses.
Corneal collagen crosslinking
Collagen cross-linking, an FDA-approved procedure, is a safe and effective way to improve vision in people with keratoconus. It aims to strengthen the cornea in order to stop the corneal bulge from worsening. To do corneal cross-linking, our keratoconus specialist will apply a special solution of riboflavin (B-vitamin) on your cornea for about a half-hour. Then, your eyes will be exposed to UV light for approximately 10-30 minutes. Afterwards, it usually takes about one month to see visual improvement.
A corneal transplant is generally the last resort treatment for keratoconus. During this surgery, your eye surgeon will remove the center of the cornea and replace it with a donor cornea, which is stitched into place. Following the procedure, you’ll need to wear contacts to achieve clear vision.