Keratoconus – early diagnosis vital

1 in 2000 Britons are needlessly losing their eyesight each year to a degenerative eye disease called Keratoconus, costing the NHS over £5 million.

Sufferers are calling for increased training for the 67% of medical professionals who are unaware of the condition and how to treat it.

Non-invasive laser treatments are now available to treat Keratoconus. Only 3% of sufferers are aware of these procedures.

Keratoconus is a condition of the eye that can severely affect vision, and in some cases, cause blindness. It is a degenerative disease where the normally round cornea progressively thins and causes a cone-like, shaped bulge to develop. In the early stages this thinning causes blurred vision, in the later stages it results in extreme loss of vision and blindness. The cause is unknown and at the current time there is no cure.

Around 30,000 Britons have the disease which can severely affect a person’s ability to drive, read or even cross the road safely. It is a condition that is most common in young people and is usually detected in the teens or early 20’s. Within the British Asian population cases of Keratoconus rise to 1 in 500.

Keratoconus cannot usually be corrected with spectacles, but instead patients are encouraged to wear hard contact lenses which can improve vision in the short term but do not slow down or prevent the progression of the condition. In more severe cases, corneal transplants may be recommended but this is a complex surgery with a recovery time of 12 to 18 months.

There are less invasive treatments that are now available that can treat the condition safely and relatively painlessly. However, only 3% of Keratoconus sufferers are aware of these treatments due to a lack of training and awareness within the NHS. Corneal Collagen Cross-linking uses a combination of Riboflavin drops and ultra violet light that react with the tissues in the cornea, strengthening them and stabilising the cornea to prevent the progression of Keratoconus.
A recent advance in the treatment of keratoconus has now been introduced. For suitable patients a new treatment called Topography Guided Custom Ablation is used to re-profile the cornea, prior to ‘fixing’ the new shape of the cornea with Corneal Collagen Cross-linking, thereby stabilising the keratoconus.

This new treatment increases the acuity of vision for most patients and makes the wearing of contact lenses more comfortable for the patient and in some cases the patient can return to spectacles.

Daryus Panthakey, Founder of Accuvision Laser Eye Clinics which offers advanced treatments for Keratoconus, says: “There is simply not enough awareness about Keratoconus across the country as a whole. Patients are often diagnosed with the condition after suffering with it for several months, or years, during which time their sight can deteriorate quickly and significantly. If the condition is spotted early, it is easily treatable using the advanced laser surgery techniques at our disposal during a simple and straightforward procedure. We are calling for more training for medical professionals so that patients can be identified quickly and efficiently and they are offered all the choices available for treatment.”

For more information about Keratoconus and its affects, visit www.keratoconus-group.org.uk.