The CLEI Center for Keratoconus

The CLEI Center of Keratoconus, founded in 2002, was the first dedicated subspecialty center for keratoconus in the nation and is world-renowned for its expertise. It led the FDA pivotal trial for the approval of corneal collagen crosslinking and continues to innovate and improve upon treatment techniques. The center also develops new specialty contact lenses for keratoconus. It offers state-of-the-art care, including diagnosis, therapy, specialty contact lenses, and advanced surgical procedures. The center’s collaborative approach ensures patients receive the best customized and comprehensive treatments to prevent disease progression and optimize vision.

Keratoconus Treatment

Are you looking for a keratoconus specialist near you? At CLEI, we offer an exhaustive evaluation using cutting-edge technologies to create a customized treatment plan for you, including specialty contact lenses, keratoconus surgery and genetic testing. Our center is a leader in keratoconus research and innovation, with doctors who have delivered thousands of academic lectures, published hundreds of peer-reviewed manuscripts, authored numerous academic book chapters, led multiple FDA clinical trials, written several books, and hold granted patents derived from our research. Trust in our unmatched experience, skill, and expertise for the most advanced treatment options available.

Keratoconus Vision

Understanding Vision from Normal Corneas versus Keratoconus and Irregular Corneas

Vision Simulations with Glasses Correction

Keratoconus Treatment at CLEI

We understand that keratoconus is more than a disease, it affects everything about your life. Every waking moment is a reminder of the disease. Our goal is to improve the quality of life for those affected by keratoconus. To do this we take a comprehensive approach to your treatment which we call Keratoconus 1,2,3. 

Our approach to keratoconus treatment is comprehensive. 

Step 1. Stop the progression of Keratoconus: Crosslinking

Since we began treating patients with crosslinking nearly in 2008 as part of our clinical studies, crosslinking has emerged as one of the most important advancements in keratoconus treatment. Corneal collagen crosslinking (CXL) halts the progression of keratoconus to maintain your vision and level of disease. Corneal crosslinking makes the cornea stronger and more resistant to disease progression. In this procedure, riboflavin (Vitamin B2) is administered in conjunction with ultraviolet A (UVA – 365nm) light. The interaction of riboflavin and UV causes a photobiologic reaction in the corneal leading to the formation of additional molecular bonds between collagen molecules and their supporting biological sugars. This results in the stiffening of the cornea, much like placing additional cables on a bridge will help to support it. At our center, we offer standard and specialty crosslinking. 

Standard crosslinking is approved by the FDA. Our center was the medical monitor and played a central role in the pivotal U.S. Multicenter Clinical Trial of Corneal Collagen Crosslinking leading to the FDA approval. We were also the lead author of the two studies leading to approval and have written many of the seminal papers about crosslinking in the US. This is the original procedure with traditional riboflavin formulations (dextran mixed and saline mixed) with constant ultraviolet light exposure.

Since the original studies of corneal cross-linking, there have been modifications to the standard crosslinking technique. These involve modifications to the UV light, such as power and time of exposure, and riboflavin formulation, to change the osmolarity and penetration through the epithelium. We are the only center in the US to hold FDA-registered INDs to perform multiple types of investigational crosslinking studies. 

What to Expect after Crosslinking

The first phase of healing is the early period 1-5 days when the surface epithelial cells heal. Generally, a bandage contact lens will protect the cornea and make it comfortable during this time.

However, there may be some discomfort but we will give you the appropriate medication. You will be able to see through the lens, but vision will be hazy during this time (like driving with a foggy windshield). In some patients, vision may continue to be mildly hazy for several months, but, in general, nearly all patients note a return to their baseline vision over the first few weeks.

Contact lens wear can be restarted after we are satisfied with the early healing, usually around 2 weeks to 1 month after the procedure. Remember, collagen crosslinking is designed to decrease the progression of keratoconus and corneal ectasia. It is not meant to improve your vision. 

Other procedures can be used to further improve your vision. It is important to know that, although crosslinking will successfully halt the disease in most patients, in rare cases keratoconus may continue to progress. Thus it is extremely important that you continued to be monitored. 

Step 2. Improve the Keratoconus Topography: Keratoconus Surgery 

Keratoconus causes a corneal shape deformation, leading to poor vision. The vision can be improved by having a procedure performed to improve corneal shape. This is part of the comprehensive management of keratoconus. and improved corneal shape will allow you to have a better quality vision in glasses and soft contact lenses and improve uncorrected vision to some extent. Our Center’s doctors are experts and innovators and will select the correct treatment to optimize your cornea and vision.

This procedure was invited by the doctors at CLEI, and clinical trials started in 2016. CTAK has proved safe, effective, and one of the most exciting procedures in keratoconus. It uses a custom-shaped corneal tissue augmentation inlaid or onlayed to create a substantial  recontouring effect and corresponding improvement in vision.

Topography-guided PRK (TG-PRK) is a laser procedure that may improve visual function in select keratoconus patients. In TG-PRK, the surface of the cornea is reshaped to reduce corneal irregularities and improve your quality of vision in glasses. Many patients may also note a general improvement in visual function.

TG-PRK achieves this by incorporating your individual corneal topography map into the laser treatment. By utilizing your custom corneal topography data, the laser reshapes your corneal surface to improve your corneal optical architecture and visual performance.

In TG-PRK, we use the Wavelight laser which is the latest state-of-the-art excimer laser system and has recently been FDA-approved for topography-guided LASIK. This beam is moved rapidly across the corneal surface in a computer-controlled pattern of tiny overlapping spots guided by the individual patient’s corneal topography maps. Though not FDA-approved in keratoconus, we can use this technique on an “off-label” basis if decided on by our doctors and our patient. 

We have extensive clinical experience with Intacs. We performed multiple clinical trials with them and found good results in most patients. Today Intacs are no longer used in our clinic as they are significantly less customizable than the options available today. 

Intacs are implantable intracorneal ring segments (ICRS). Intacs are made of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), an inert polymer used in eye surgery for many years. They were originally FDA-approved in 1998 for nearsightedness and later received approval for treating keratoconus. The goal of Intacs was to reshape the cornea in keratoconus. The thickness and position of the Intacs segments were chosen based on your individual corneal shape. Depending on the individual measurements, one or two segments were placed within the cornea.

Some individuals who have previously undergone the Intacs procedure may have had a corneal shape change but no improvement in vision. We can optimize vision after Intacs placement with today’s options and expertise. TG-PRK can be performed to further improve corneal shape and vision. Intacs can be removed and a CTAK procedure can then be performed

When you decide to trust your vision to our team, we are committed to taking care of all your needs from beginning to end of your vision correction journey, including all medications for post-surgery care and additional refinements if needed to optimize your outcome with enhancement treatments.

Step 3: Improving Keratoconus Vision: Keratoconus Contact Lenses & Other Keratoconus Surgeries

In keratoconus maximizing vision has the greatest impact on your quality of life. This can be achieved both surgical and non-surgically.

Specialty Contact Lenses Procedure

The process of designing a customized lens to meet the needs of the keratoconus patient starts with an advanced and in-depth evaluation. This evaluation guides the process of understanding which type of specialty contact lens will meet your individual needs. A multitude of different scans, impressions, and diagnostic lenses may be used in the design process. Once a lens type has been selected, our doctors will create a custom contact lens for you. This process generally involves several revisions or modifications to ensure the lens is ideally fit, eye health is maintained and vision is the best possible. 

The Initial Evaluation

At the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute, patients undergo an advanced comprehensive ocular examination using sophisticated technologies to optimize results. Using this evaluation, your individual needs can be matched to the proper specialty contact lens to achieve the best outcome. This advanced ocular examination will typically take a few hours to complete. Once this baseline information is gathered, the lens design and fitting process can begin.

The Lens Design and Fitting Process

During your initial evaluation, the lens design process will begin. Just like a fingerprint, each eye has its own unique contour. There is even a significant difference in the shape when comparing the 2 eyes of the same individual. Specialty contact lenses are tailored to your individual eyes’ anatomy, physiology,  and visual needs. From the lens materials, physical lens parameters, and optics, the process aims to determine and create lenses to achieve these three goals; improved vision, ample comfort, and optimum health. There are several techniques used in the process of designing your lenses.

Diagnostic Set Design

The classic way to fit and design specialty contact lenses is by using a diagnostic contact lens set. A series of lenses with varying curvatures are placed on the eye. The lens’s alignment is evaluated, and during the design process, modifications to the lenses are made based on the observations and eye performance. At the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute, our doctors have over 100 different diagnostic contact lens sets at their disposal. In contrast, the average practitioner may have 1 or 2 diagnostic sets.

Scan-Based Design

An additional approach is scan-based specialty contact lens design. Using highly specialized devices to scan the ocular shape, this data is used to create a digital model of the eye. Our doctors have access to all the devices capable of capturing this data, while the average 

practitioner will not have access to these devices. Once this model is created, we will use specialized computer-aided design software to create a lens unique to your eye’s contour.

Corneal cross-sections from a tomographer, used to create a 3d model to build a custom scleral lens, ortho-k lens, or other specialty contact lens. 

Impression-Based Design

An impression of the cornea and ocular surface. This ocular impression will be 3D scanned and used to create a model of the eye and then create a custom scleral lens, corneal gp lens or other specialty contact lens. 

Another approach is the technique of ocular impressions. Using a specialized gel, an impression of your eye is obtained. This impression is then 3D scanned, creating a digital model of the eye. Using this model and highly specialized computer-aided design programs, completely bespoke lenses can be created. Our center has been a pioneer in this technique. The first to perform it in the northeastern United States and is the only doctor trained to do so in New Jersey. Less than 0.1% of practitioners worldwide are trained in this technique.  

Once the initial visit is complete, your individualized specialty contact lenses will be fabricated. The lenses will typically take 2-3 weeks before they arrive in the office for the final verification process before being dispensed.

Derived Specialty Contact Lenses

Both are custom made scleral lenses derived from diagnostic fitting, scan based, or impression based data. Both lenses lead to a successful result. Though the examples above are of scleral lenses, these scan and impression data derived lenses can be applied to other lens types such as custom soft lenses, hybrid lenses, and corneal GP lenses

Keratoconus Contact Lenses

Types of Specialty Contact Lenses for Keratoconus and Irregular Corneal Conditions

Most patients are familiar with standard soft lenses. These lenses are mass-manufactured in a process called cast molding. The lens parameters are generally limited to fit the average shape, size, and power needs of a normal eye. Though they are highly successful for most individuals with uncomplicated corneas and average refractive errors, those patients with moderate to advanced corneal irregularity commonly experience difficulty. However, individuals with mild corneal irregularity and refractive error within the normal parameters, a standard soft lens may achieve a satisfactory outcome.

Unlike their mass-produced counterparts, custom soft lenses are not limited to the typical parameter constraints of the normal corneal population. Custom soft lenses are lathe-cut and can be produced in an extensive range of base curve radii, diameters, materials, and nearly endless refractive powers. Some of these lenses can have a cosmetic or prosthetic option added, which can be useful to improve cosmesis and to reduce glare. Additionally, lens thickness can be significantly increased to create a pseudo-rigidity, which can mask corneal irregularity. Success of these lenses depends on the severity of the irregularity. For individuals who are unable to tolerate corneal GP lenses, custom soft lenses may provide adequate vision and improved levels of comfort.  

Corneal GP lenses are the classic choice to mask corneal surface irregularities and to improve visual acuity. These lenses are also referred to a hard lenses, rigid lenses and RGP (rigid gas permeable) lenses. Using corneal GP lenses on a cornea that has very minor irregularity is similar to fitting them for refractive correction on a normal cornea. However, fitting corneal GPs becomes increasingly difficult as the corneal surface becomes more irregular. Success of these lenses depend greatly on the severity and location of the corneal irregularity. Many patient whom have had difficulty with GP lenses in the past generally have irregularity that is too severe to be successful with this type of lens. These lenses are lathe-cut and can be produced in an extensive range of base curve radii, diameters, materials, and nearly endless refractive powers. When fitting a corneal GP lens, precision of fit is of the utmost importance to maintain the corneal integrity and lens comfort. Additionally GP lenses have proven useful in deciding if surgical intervention may be beneficial.

For patients experiencing reduced comfort or minor epitheliopathy with a best-fit corneal GP, a PB lens system can be utilized. This approach uses a GP lens to improve visual acuity, while the underlying soft lens provides corneal protection, cushioning the cornea from the GP lens and improving comfort. The PB lens system may be best utilized when other options have failed and GP lens is the appropriate first lens option. Patients may be apprehensive to adopt this modality due to the perceived difficulty of wearing and caring for two lenses. Daily disposable standard soft lenses can be used to as the cushion to simplify care. On occasion a custom soft lens option, such as a cosmetic/prosthetic soft lens or a soft lens with a central excavation (allowing the GP lens to rest in a depression in the soft lens surface), can be used to improve cosmesis, reduce glare, or improve lens centration.

Candidates for refractive lens exchange are generally older than 40 years of age when one requires glasses to read, work on the computer, and possibly for distance as well.  In some cases, patients have a prescription that is not ideally treated with blended vision LASIK.  This procedure is performed one eye and a time in an ambulatory surgery center.  Surgery on the second eye is usually performed two weeks after the first eye is complete. The amount of time it takes to see an improvement in vision varies. Most patients see better and can return to work within a few days.

Hybrid lenses utilize a GP center with a soft lens edge, so they have characteristics of both GP and soft lenses. Various hybrid lens designs exist, with multiple geometries to accommodate a mild to moderate corneal irregularity. The GP portion of the lens can be modified to align with or vault over the corneal irregularity while the soft skirt an aids in adjusting lens movement, tear exchange, and lens centration and can also influence alignment of the GP portion of the lens. Hybrids can produce improved vision and comfort over corneal GPs in cases of lens decentration and lens intolerance. Of note, quality of life is similar with corneal GP, soft, and hybrid lenses. Hybrid lenses are filled with saline prior to lens application and because of the soft edge special attention to the force of lens application to avoid issues with lens wear.

When corneal irregularity is extreme, scleral lenses are preferred over other lens designs. These lenses vault over the cornea, aligning with the sclera and overlying conjunctiva (white of the eye). Scleral lenses can overcome nearly any corneal irregularity and should be considered as an option prior to referral for corneal transplantation. Individuals who have keratoconus and who otherwise would have undergone corneal transplantation secondary to contact lens failure can achieve success with these lenses. These lenses are can be designed with an abundance of unique modifications. Advanced fitting techniques can include impression based and scan based design. These lenses are lathe-cut and can be produced in an extensive range of shapes, diameters, materials, and nearly endless refractive powers. In addition, highly customizable optics such as wavefront guided, higher order aberration correcting optics can be added in some lenses.

In some cases vision with scleral lenses, though improved, may still have some residual blur. This residual blur is caused by higher-order aberrations. These higher-order aberrations are responsible for doubled, overlapped, ghosted vision with glare, flare, starburst and halos. In these cases, the addition of highly customized wavefront-guided, higher-order aberration-correcting scleral lenses can further improve your vision.

Vision Simulations of Traditional Scleral Lenses & Wavefront Guided Scleral Lenses

These optics are considered High Definition optics as the clarity is improved over traditional optics. Our doctors were the first to use this technology in the North East United States and is currently the only doctor trained to do so in the state of New Jersey. Our research has found these lenses provide an average 50% percent reduction in aberrations and 1 or more lines of visual acuity improvement over traditional scleral lenses. 

Scleral lenses and scleral devices are specially designed to rest on the conjunctiva and underlying sclera, the “white” of the eye, and vault over the entire corneal surface.

The cornea focuses light and when diseases, such as keratoconus, trauma or surgery distorts its shape it also distorts vision. The cornea is also one of the most sensitive tissues in the body and the one most damaged by dry eye and ocular surface disease. By vaulting over the cornea, the lens masks the irregular shape. The space created between the cornea and the back surface of the device is filled with fluid. In ocular surface disease, this fluid reservoir acts as a “tear bandage” which bathes the corneal surface to provide comfort, protection, and healing for people with diseases that affect the ocular surface. This therapeutic use can rehabilitate the cornea and prevent further damage caused by various diseases.

A custom scleral lens made by a scan or impression based design technique.

A custom scleral lens made by a scan or impression based design technique. Notice the unique shape of the lens, designed to fit the exact nuances of the cornea or ocular surface. Image by John D. Gelles, O.D. Copyright © 2020 by the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Scleral lenses can be a great option for those with irregular corneas and ocular surface disease. Many times these lenses are the only option for patients with severe disease and often times can delay or prevent the need for surgical intervention. Occasionally standard scleral lenses will be unsuccessful due to the complex shape of the eye. In those cases custom scleral lenses and prosthetic scleral devices become the best option.

Our doctors work extensively with these devices and has helped suffering patients from all over the world. He has been instrumental in developing advanced technology, fitting techniques and lens designs. Custom made scleral lenses, whether derived from diagonic fitting, software driven, scan based or impression based data, all can lead to a successful result. As an expert in these techniques, our doctor determines which approach will be best so he can create a custom scleral lens or device to meet your individual needs.

A variety of custom made scleral lenses, each is made to mimic the ocular shape of the patient's eye.

A variety of custom made scleral lenses, each is made to mimic the ocular shape of the patient’s eye. Note no 2 lenses are the same just as no 2 eyes are the same. Image by John D. Gelles, O.D. Copyright © 2020 by the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute. All Rights Reserved.

The classic way to fit and design scleral lenses is by use of a diagnostic contact lens set. A series of lenses with varying curvatures are placed on the eye. The alignment of the lens is evaluated and during the design process modifications to the lenses are made based on the observations and on eye performance. The majority of diagnostic designs have simplified parameter options, which can limit the design process. Scleral lens design software can remove these restrictions, allowing for more customized lenses to be made. Several custom scleral lenses or scleral devices, such as a PROSE device, use these powerful software programs allowing our doctors to create more customized of lenses.

Example of software used to design lenses.

Example of software used to design lenses. Image by John D. Gelles, O.D. Copyright © 2020 by the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Various derived shapes.

Various derived shapes. Image by John D. Gelles, O.D. Copyright © 2020 by the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Another design approach uses highly specialized devices to scan the ocular shape. This shape data is used to create a 3 dimensional digital model of the eye. Once this model is created our doctors will use a specialized computer aided design software to create a lens unique to the contour of the eye.

3 different profilometers at CLEI.

3 different profilometers at CLEI. Image by John D. Gelles, O.D. Copyright © 2020 by the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Scans from a profilometer, used to create a 3d model to build a custom scleral lens.

Scans from a profilometer, used to create a 3d model to build a custom scleral lens. Image by John D. Gelles, O.D. Copyright © 2020 by the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Another approach is the technique of ocular impressions. Using a specialized gel, a impression of the eye is obtained. This impression is the most accurate depiction of your eye possible and is then 3D scanned, creating a digital model of the eye. Using this model and multiple highly specialized computer aided design programs a completely bespoke scleral lens, such as a EyePrintPro device, can be created.

Our doctors has been a pioneer in this technique. The first to perform it in the North East United States and is currently the only doctors trained to do so in the state of New Jersey. Less than 0.1% of practitioners in the world are trained on this technique. 

An impression of cornea and ocular surface, this will be 3D scanned and used to create a model of the eye which custom scleral lens is designed. Image by John D. Gelles, O.D. Copyright © 2020 by the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute. All Rights Reserved. 

An impression being 3D scanned, a model lens derived, and a custom scleral lens manufactured.

An impression being 3D scanned, a model lens derived, and a custom scleral lens manufactured. Image by John D. Gelles, O.D. Copyright © 2020 by the Cornea and Laser Eye Institute. All Rights Reserved.

Genetic Testing for Keratoconus

Understanding Genetics and Keratoconus

If the last time you learned about genetics was in biology class, you’re not alone. To best understand genetic testing it’s important to revisit the basics. 

There are two main categories of genetic diseases: Monogenic and Polygenic. Monogenic disease is simple, if you have the gene you have the disease. It’s a yes or no. A well-known example of this is cystic fibrosis. 

Polygenic disease is more complex, no individual gene is responsible for the disease, rather, it is a collective of genes associated with a disease. If you have more genes associated with the disease, you have a higher genetic risk of the disease. These genetic factors interact with environmental factors to cause the disease. Polygenic diseases are associated with several or lots of genetic variances. Keratoconus is a polygenic disease. Other examples of polygenic diseases include hypertension and diabetes. 

Why have a genetic test for keratoconus?

Genetic tests help to guide personalized, precise, medicine. If a patient is identified with a high genetic risk for keratoconus, then our doctor will prescribe more frequent follow-up, recommend avoiding or treating environmental factors, such as treating ocular allergies and stopping eye rubbing, and may initiate earlier intervention with treatments such as crosslinking. These treatments if initiated at the earliest onset of the disease can slow the trajectory of the disease, preventing advanced disease.

How is the risk for keratoconus calculated?

Risk calculation in polygenic diseases such as keratoconus is complex. Researchers have identified 75 genes associated with keratoconus, discoveries that enabled Avellino to develop the AvaGen Genetic Eye Test, which screens for thousands of variants on those 75 genes and provides a risk assessment based on those findings. 
AvaGen Genetic Eye Test is a major breakthrough in understanding a patient’s risk of keratoconus. It provides risk scores for both symptomatic and asymptomatic keratoconus patients. The results are presented as a simple score, 0 to 100, which breaks down into low, moderate, or high risk. Our doctors were involved with the original development of the test.

Is keratoconus genetic or environmental?

Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the development of keratoconus. An example of environmental factors impacting the development of keratoconus is eye rubbing. Does this mean all people that rub their eyes will develop keratoconus? No, and this is where genetics play a role. For a person with high genetic risk, eye rubbing compounds and increases the risk for keratoconus development.

How is the genetic data collected?

The test is simple. It is performed in-office with a cheek swab, also known as a buccal swab, which collects a small number of cells from the inner cheek.

Who should get genetic testing for keratoconus?

Patients with a diagnosis of keratoconus should consider having their family members, especially their children, tested.

What is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus, one of the more obscure and less widely known eye diseases, occurs in about one out of every 725 individuals and is one of the more difficult eye diseases to diagnose. Keratoconus eye disease is caused by the weakening of the collagen tissue that makes up the cornea. The cornea begins to stretch and thin as the collagen gets weaker, resulting in a loss of the cornea’s normal dome shape.  

Biologically and structurally, the cornea is made up of bands of collagen called lamellae which are “glued” together by natural biologic sugars called glycosaminoglycans or GAG’s. The cornea’s collagen and microstructure are abnormal in keratoconus, causing a weakness of the corneal, which then leads to corneal distortion and related visual problems.

It is a progressive condition which, aside from distorting the cornea’s natural optics, can also lead to scarring and other problems. The presentation and impact of keratoconus can vary widely from person to person. In its earliest stages, keratoconus often masquerades as astigmatism or nearsightedness, two of the more common eye conditions. Often, it is only after numerous unsuccessful attempts at vision correction with glasses or soft contact lenses that keratoconus is diagnosed. 

Keratoconus is typified by corneal thinning and biomechanical instability. This may be caused by abnormalities in the normal collagen structure of the cornea. Collagen is the main structural component of the cornea. Collagen is a molecule that is typically very strong. For example, it makes up most of the structure of the tendons and ligaments of your muscles and bones. The cornea is made of pancakes (or lamellae) of collagen tissue in a complex array. In keratoconus, the collagen lamellar architecture may be abnormal. There may also be abnormal enzymes that degrade the collagen and reduce the collagen in the KC cornea. In addition, the cells of the cornea (keratocytes) may not be normal, contributing to the thinning and instability of the keratoconic cornea. The linkages of the collagen molecules, collagen lamellae, and corneal sugars to one another may also be weak in keratoconus. For instance, “anchoring fibrils” which normally lock the collagen pancakes to the front of the cornea, on Bowman’s layer, may be abnormal. This may allow the collagen pancakes to slide on one another and exacerbate KC progression. Because of this, it is important that the keratoconus patient does not rub his/her eyes in order to avoid mechanical shearing of the collagen pancakes. Finally, inflammation may also play a role in keratoconus. Reactive oxygen species, or oxygen free radicals, may damage the corneal cells and collagen structure, and lead to keratoconus progression. Because of this, avoiding and treating eye inflammation (for instance, eye allergies) also may be important for the patient with KC. 

Keratoconus Symptoms

Detecting keratoconus eye disease can be challenging as its initial symptom is often a minor blurring of vision or gradual deterioration in vision that cannot be easily corrected. Keratoconus symptoms include:

  • Blurred or distorted vision
  • Increased sensitivity to light and glare
  • Glare and halos around lights
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions
  • Difficulty seeing at night or in low light conditions
  • Eye redness or swelling
  • Eye strain or fatigue
  • Headaches or migraines

What Causes Keratoconus?

The actual cause of keratoconus is unclear. It may have a genetic, inheritable component. However, in many patients there are no family members with the disease. Similarly, most children of KC patients do not have keratoconus, but they should be checked in early adolescence for signs of KC because early management can prevent the progression of the condition over time.

Here at the CLEI Center for Keratoconus, we are working to identify factors that might place the keratoconus patient at greater risk, while we endeavor to bring our patients the best treatment options available. There are some general precautions that a patient with keratoconus can take to help decrease the chance of disease progression.

1) Don’t rub your eyes.

Remember that KC is a problem of corneal mechanics and strength. The cornea gets its strength from the linkages of the collagen to one another. Eye rubbing may exacerbate slipping of the collagen pancakes of the cornea and possibly cause further destabilization of the corneal structure. It can also irritate the eyes, causing inflammation that is not good for the keratoconic cornea.

2) Control eye allergies.

Ocular allergy can cause inflammation, and also encourage eye rubbing. Therefore, use medications and drops as prescribed by your doctor to minimize symptoms of eye allergy.

3) Optimize your contact lens fit.

The impact of contact lens wear on the progression of keratoconus is unclear. However, contact lenses are the mainstay of keratoconus treatment in many cases. Making sure that the contact lens fit is the best possible, will avoid problems secondary to irritation, inflammation, or scarring to the cornea. The goal is to maintain ocular health over the long term to preserve vision.  

4) Maintain close follow-up with your eye doctor

Keratoconus is a progressive disease. Currently, there is no way to predict who, when or how much someone will progress. 

5) Receive care from a keratoconus specialist 

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