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Corneal Intacs to Treat Keratoconus

Corneal Intacs Keratoconus What is keratoconus
Keratoconus is a condition in which the cornea (clear surface of the eye) gradually gets thinner, causing the eye to bulge and become cone-shaped. The disorder is uncommon, but not rare, affecting approximately 1 in 2,000 people.

Keratoconus is usually diagnosed in the teenage years, with the first symptoms being mildly blurred or distorted vision and sensitivity to light and glare. The disease usually progresses steadily, with vision getting gradually worse, over 10-20 years before slowing or stabilizing. Both eyes are usually affected by this condition, though sometimes differently.

In the early stages, glasses or soft contact lenses may be used to correct for the nearsightedness and astigmatism caused by the disorder. As the condition worsens, rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses may be needed. In severe cases, if the cornea gets extremely thin or there is scarring, a corneal transplant may be required.

Unfortunately, in some cases, keratoconus will progress to the point where glasses or contact lenses are no longer enough to provide good vision. For some patients, Intacs corneal implants may be an option.

What are Intacs
Intacs are small, C-shaped rings made of medical plastic which are surgically inserted into the cornea of the eye. The special shape of these inserts causes the cornea to flatten, correcting nearsightedness. This is similar to procedures like LASIK, except with laser surgery, flattening is achieved by removing corneal tissue. With Intacs, the already-fragile corneal tissue is left intact, only the shape of the eye is changed.

In 2004, Intacs corneal implants were approved by the U.S. FDA for the treatment of keratoconus under a Humanitarian Device Exemption. This type of exemption granted is for treatment in a small number of people when few or no other options are available, and safety of the device has been adequately demonstrated.

The procedure and recovery
Implanting the Intacs is very quick, outpatient procedure, taking as little as 15 minutes. Anesthetic drops will be used to numb your eyes, which will be held open during the procedure. The doctor will make a small incision and then create a tunnel through the layers of the cornea. The Intacs will be inserted into this space. After a brief resting period, you will be able to go home, however you cannot drive after the surgery, so be sure to bring someone with you.

Within a few days after the procedure, you should have clearer vision. Some patients even see improvement the very next day! You will not be able to feel the implants, and they will not be visible to other people unless they are looking extremely closely at your eye.

If you have only mild keratoconus, you may not need any corrective lenses after the surgery. If your condition is moderate to severe, glasses, soft contacts, or RGP contact lenses may be needed.

Complications of this surgery can include infection and visual distortions such as glare, halos, blurry vision, or night vision problems.

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