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Good News for Patients with a Common Cornea Problem

Keratoconus is a progressive eye disorder affecting the cornea. While there is no cure as of yet, research is currently underway to slow its progression. “It is exciting because it is the first time we have had a treatment that may slow, or even stop, the progression of keratoconus,” exclaims Brandon D. Ayres, M.D., an award-winning cornea specialist with Ophthalmic Partners of Pennsylvania.

Keratoconus is one of the most common eye problems diagnosed in young people—beginning after puberty through the mid-twenties. Visual disturbances caused by keratoconus include blurred vision, multiple images, glare, and halos around light.

The disorder can be difficult to diagnose, particularly in the early stages, as all symptoms can be associated with other eye problems. As a general rule, you should see a qualified eye doctor as soon as you experience any visual disturbances, even if you think it is nothing.

Establishing a good relationship with your eye doctor is important. Progression of the disorder is steady (but tends to slow by age 40). During this time, frequent exams are required to monitor changes to the cornea.

Keratoconus causes a thinning and “bulging” of the cornea. In the early stage, eyeglasses and soft contact lenses are effective in correcting the mild nearsightedness and astigmatism caused by the distortion of the cornea. Eventually, specially fitted hard contact lenses are needed. In advanced cases, patients require a cornea transplant.

“While corneal transplants are quite successful, it is still better to keep your own cornea if at all possible,” advises Dr. Ayres.

Dr. Ayres and other ophthalmologists across the country are studying the effectiveness of corneal collagen crosslinking with riboflavin (CXL) to slow the progression of keratoconus. The simple in-office procedure involves placing eye drops containing riboflavin in the eyes and then exposing the cornea to a calibrated UV light. “This combination is intended to strengthen the cornea, making it less pliable so it cannot move,” explains Dr. Ayres.

Published European studies have shown that CXL slows or arrests the progression of keratoconus. CXL is pending FDA approval in United States, but ophthalmologists are hopeful about the difference it could make for patients. The ACOS CXL trial, which is currently on-going at Ophthalmic Partners, will be accepting patients through December. If you would like to learn more about the trial, please call 215-720-1879 and ask for Irene Spanelis.

“Keratoconus tends to run in families,” shares Dr. Ayres. “So if you have a family member that has been diagnosed with the disorder, it is worth having an exam.” Some experts even recommend regularly screening children of families with a known keratoconus diagnosis beginning at the age of 10.

Ophthalmic Partners of Pennsylvania is the region’s largest multi-specialty ophthalmology practice, providing advanced eye care in the areas of cataract and refractive surgery, cornea and external disease, anterior segment, glaucoma and related disorders, and pediatric ophthalmology. To learn more information about keratoconus or to schedule an exam, please call 215-720-1879 or visit www.oppdoctors.com.