Since I have been living with this disease for some time I have actually performed a lot of research into all of the treatment options available. Now, some of these treatment options are not fully FDA approved, but they have been tested for many years and they are generally considered safe. Of course you should use common sense here and not rely on the advice of any blogger, always seek out the opinion of someone who is experienced and even seek out the opinion of two experienced surgeons to get the best advice possible.
Early stage treatment of Keratoconus
The first stage is really nothing major; you can treat this disease with glasses. For many people this can work for years. In fact it was not until recently was I forced to wear contact lenses to treat this condition. Now since the cornea is misshaped you will eventually not be able to see much at all with your glasses, then you go into the second stage of treatment.
You can go for several decades using this treatment option, so if you are just diagnosed with this disease you have a lot of time to figure out your next course of action and how you may want to proceed. As well since the advancements in treating Keratoconus are becoming quite rapid you may experience a longer lasting option then those previously. The best thing I can say to you is to not give up hope.
Second stage treatment
The second stage is potentially made of two options, since the advancements in soft contact lenses it is now possible to use soft contacts for a longer period of time. Getting fit with a custom fit contact lens is going to take some time, however, it will be worth it in the long run.
You can go with the soft contact route to start, and for many this may be the best way to go, or the hard gas permeable lenses. The benefit of using a soft contact lens to begin with is that you should be able to wear these lenses for a longer period of time and they should not cause a lot of issues when you wear them for a long period of time.
Soft contacts are generally safer to use as they will not cause a lot of irritation and because they can be custom made for each eye you should be able to see clearer than with a rigid lens. While you still should not sleep in these lenses it may be possible to do so in the future.
Finally, once you have exhausted the soft contact lens route you can then move on to the hard or glass permeable lenses. These lenses are the “gold standard” of treating Keracontonus. For many people, including myself, the prescription of Jupiter RGP lenses has saved the sight of many people who would otherwise go blind.
The drawback of using an RGP lens however is the overall comfort for long periods of time. As well the care and upkeep of these lenses can be a bit of a pain. Fortunately, you won’t need to dispose of these lenses for roughly two years if your prescription has not changed.
Another drawback of the Jupiter RGP lenses is the overall cost of buying these. Getting fitted with a custom lens is going to take some time, and that time is going to be valuable to any optometrist. This is not just like buying a contact lens from Wal-Mart or something; it takes a lot of effort to get it done the right way so you have the ability to see.
Some of the more aggressive treatment options
Finally, now I am going to discuss some of the more aggressive treatment options. Some of these treatments are not yet approved by the FDA and as such the amount various Doctor’s charge for them varies so it may be helpful to shop around.
Cornea Cross Linking is a treatment option that is undergoing clinical trials in the United States at this time. Essentially what happens is that your top layer of your cornea is peeled back and then drops of riboflavin are dropped into the eye. Once these drops have been placed onto the affected area of the cornea it is then subjected to a low dosage of ultra-violet radiation to cause a cross linking effect. This cross linking effect supposedly flattens the cornea and strengthens it for the future.
Cross linking is not approved by the FDA because there really have not been any guidelines or best practices on how many drops to apply or the level of radiation to give to any patient. Basically, there is not enough information to really give the best end result for the patient and that is why it is not approved yet. So if you feel comfortable undergoing a procedure that may or may not work then I say give it a shot.
Another treatment option that can be combined with cross linking is the use of intac cornea rings. These rings are just as you would imagine, they are small rings that can be tolerated by the body that go into the cornea and flatten out the bulge that causes the problems with all Keracontonus patients. By using cross linking in combination with the intac procedure many people have reported significant vision improvement.
The final stage of Keratoconus
The final stage and the only treatment option available is a full blown cornea transplant. The reason why this should be considered the absolute last resort is that once this procedure has been done it cannot be reversed. Put simply you cannot undo this procedure and as such you should really consider that.
Now there are various types of transplants that can be used. The severity of your condition would dictate if you require a full blown transplant or a partial graft transplant, the benefit of using a partial graft is that you are given a shorter time frame for recovery.
The typical time to recover fully from this procedure is anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Clearly, this can take a lot of time to get over and heal properly. You will be restricted in what you can do and for many people those restrictions will put a serious damper on the lifestyle you have become accustomed to.
Would this mean the end of your life as you know it? Probably not but for one year you will have to treat your affected eye as though it was the most fragile and most valuable part of your body.
Overcoming this disease just takes time, clearly not everyone is ready for hearing the news of being diagnosed with this disease. You can find some good resources in your local town by searching the Internet and if you have a Department of Blind services then I highly recommend you contact them as they will have access to a lot more information then I could give you.