Every year on November 10th, we come together as a community to celebrate World Keratoconus Day. The event, which is sponsored by the National Keratoconus Foundation (NKCF) – an educational program of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute at UC Irvine, is dedicated to raising awareness about keratoconus, as well as educating and advocating for those living with the condition. In the United States, a rare disease is defined as a condition that affects fewer than 200,000 people. Keratoconus, a progressive eye condition in which the cornea weakens and thins over time, affects approximately 1 in 2,000 individuals in the US.
In November of 2021, the NKCF held a congressional briefing where experts in the field addressed how they speak with newly diagnosed keratoconus patients about research and treatment options. The briefing featured two experts in the keratoconus community: Christopher Rapuano, M.D., Chief of the Wills Eye Hospital Cornea Service and Professor of Ophthalmology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, and Christine Sindt, O.D., FAAO, Director of Contact Lens Service and Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.
Below, we’re discussing how these experts treat their keratoconus patients. Keep reading if you would also like the opportunity to watch the full congressional briefing.
Dr. Rapuano Discusses Keratoconus Treatment Options
When it comes to treating keratoconus, Dr. Rapuano always addresses two avenues: slowing or halting the progression of the condition and improving vision. As part of his treatment regimen, Dr. Rapuano determines whether or not a patient’s keratoconus is progressing. If someone is living with progressive keratoconus, Dr. Rapuano may recommend iLink® FDA-approved cross-linking. iLink® is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that is proven safe and effective by the FDA in slowing or halting the progression of keratoconus to help preserve patients’ vision. It is the only cross-linking procedure that has been approved by the FDA (since April 2016) and is eligible for insurance reimbursement.
Dr. Rapuano also works to improve vision, depending on the severity of the condition. If the case of keratoconus is mild, some people can see fine without corrective lenses such as glasses or soft contacts, while others may benefit from them. Those with more moderate keratoconus may require a hard contact lens, hybrid lens, or scleral lens. If keratoconus is severe and/or there is scarring, a corneal transplant may be necessary.
Dr. Sindt Weighs In on Contact Lenses for Keratoconus
Dr. Sindt understands firsthand how difficult it can be to learn that you or a loved one is living with keratoconus, as she diagnosed her son with the condition when he was 20 years old. After being diagnosed with keratoconus, it’s common for people to worry about vision loss or how this progressive condition may impact their career, life, and future. However, Dr. Sindt wants people to know that as it relates to addressing vision needs of keratoconic patients, glasses and different kinds of contact lenses may be able to help patients. It is important that patients treat their underlying condition, first. From there, they may find glasses or contact lenses helpful in improving vision.
Contact lenses help keratoconus by covering the irregularity on the cornea with a stiff piece of plastic. This creates a new, smooth surface that allows light to bend evenly and a clear image to be formed. The vast majority of those with the condition who are wearing contact lenses use scleral lenses, followed by gas permeable lenses. If you experience itchy eyes or unexplained vision changes, Dr. Sindt emphasizes the importance of getting regular eye exams, as they are essential for the early detection and treatment of keratoconus.
For more information, or to see the full congressional hearing, watch the video below.
Connect With a Physician Today!
Although keratoconus can progress and may lead to blindness if untreated, there are a number of safe and effective treatments available, including iLink® to slow or halt the progression. If you or a loved one is living with keratoconus and looking into treatment options, speak with a doctor to learn more about what may be right for you. If you’re looking for a physician in your area that is treating progressive keratoconus, try our physician locator tool today.
If you’re looking for more information on keratoconus, iLink®, World KC Day, or to connect with others in the keratoconus community who may be going through similar experiences, visit our website! Also, follow Living with KC on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
iLink® should only be used as intended. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.