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How Can I Find a Keratoconus Specialist?

If you’ve just been diagnosed with keratoconus or have a family history, you’ll want to find the best keratoconus specialist near you for your ongoing treatment.

Keratoconus Develops Rapidly

One of the differences between keratoconus and other eye diseases is how quickly it can progress. With an eye disease that changes often, it is important to find an eye doctor you feel comfortable with. Keratoconus requires an ongoing relationship with frequent appointments for best management.

An optometrist that specializes in diagnosing keratoconus and the treatment of keratoconus will often have special equipment allowing them to recognize keratoconus sooner than other optometry clinics.

Sometimes Develops in Families

While it is not known exactly what causes keratoconus, one factor is that it can sometimes be hereditary. If your family has a history of keratoconus, it is recommended to find an eye doctor near you that specializes in keratoconus for early detection. Keratoconus can start developing during the teenage years.

Treating Keratoconus

Treatment options for keratoconus may include eyeglasses or contact lenses, custom scleral contact lenses or custom rigid gas permeable lenses, Intacs, corneal collagen cross linking, and eye surgery or a cornea transplant.

In the early stages, patients are often fitted for glasses or contact lenses. The prescription may change often as the disease progresses.

Custom scleral contact lenses are often prescribed as they can be more comfortable for patients with keratoconus as they vault over the cornea of the eye. Patients with keratoconus have a cone-shaped cornea which may make it difficult to wear soft contact lenses. It can be helpful if the optometrist managing your keratoconus is also able to fit you for custom scleral contact lenses. Many patients that suffer from corneal eye diseases will find custom scleral contact lenses a good option.

If Intacs, corneal crosslinking, and/or cornea surgery or corneal transplants is recommended, your eye doctor will refer you to an ophthalmologist who specializes in the surgical treatment of keratoconus. Together, both eye doctors will develop an individualized treatment plan before and after the surgery and will co-manage the treatment of your keratoconus.

Keratoconus Specialists Stay Informed

Having a cornea eye specialist managing your keratoconus means they stay informed of the latest treatments and best practices for managing keratoconus.

When looking for a keratoconus specialist to treat your eye disease, find an eye doctor near you that:

  • You feel comfortable with,
  • Has the necessary equipment for early detection of keratoconus,
  • Can fit you with custom scleral contact lenses,
  • Works with an ophthalmologist specializing in keratoconus surgical options if your corneal disease progresses and requires surgery,
  • Regularly works with other keratoconus patients and specializes in the treatment of keratoconus.

Albuquerque Optometrists that Specialize in Keratoconus

The optometrists at Eyes of New Mexico Family Optometry and Contact Lenses in Albuquerque are specialists in treating keratoconus. If you or your family has a keratoconus diagnosis or you’d like to find out, book an appointment at our Albuquerque clinic. We’ll get started with an eye exam to see where we can improve vision and increase the comfort of your eyes.

Is there a link between Keratoconus and Sleep Apnea?

If you’re sleepy during the day, you may attribute that to vision problems associated with keratoconus. But studies have found that people with keratoconus are at a higher rate of having Sleep Apnea than patients without keratoconus.

What is Keratoconus?

Having keratoconus means the cornea starts to thin and bulge into a cone shape. People with this eye disorder will often have decreased vision, blurry vision, and sensitivity to light and glare. This eye disorder generally worsens over time.

Those with a family history of keratoconus are at higher risk for developing it themselves. Individuals with Down syndrome, Marfan syndrome, or a congenital disorder are also known to develop Keratoconus. 

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

If you stop breathing involuntarily briefly while sleeping, you may have sleep apnea. This can happen hundreds of times during your sleep without waking you so you don’t even notice it.

There are three types of sleep apnea provided on the Sleep Foundation website:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): OSA occurs when the airway at the back of the throat becomes physically blocked. That obstruction causes temporary lapses in the breath.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): CSA happens because there is a problem with the brain’s system for controlling muscles involved in respiration, leading to slower and shallower breathing. This is a rare form of sleep apnea.
  • Mixed Sleep Apnea: When a person has both OSA and CSA at the same time, it is referred to as mixed sleep apnea or complex sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects children and adults. Obesity, having a large neck, a family history, or excessive drug and alcohol use, can all lead to an increased risk of developing or having OSA. 

Research on Keratoconus and OSA

A 2018 study published in Cornea, found that “OSA was 10 to 20 times more prevalent among patients with KCN than the rate reported for the general population.”

This 2019 study reviewed five studies on the association between keratoconus and OSA and found there is a correlation.

Researchers aren’t entirely sure why there is a link between keratoconus and OSA, but multiple studies have found this to be the case. 

Do I have OSA?

Most studies use the Berlin Questionnaire to determine the risk level for sleep apnea. If you’re curious how you would score, you can take the Berlin Questionnaire here to see what your risk factor is. Of course, you should always seek a qualified medical diagnosis and treatment.

Patients with Keratoconus Should Speak to Their Doctor About OSA

If you have keratoconus, consider discussing sleep apnea with your primary care physician. 

Patients with keratoconus may attribute their sleepiness to their corneal disorder. Knowing they are at higher risk for having sleep apnea may allow them to seek a medical diagnosis sooner to receive treatment.

Do I have Keratoconus?

Early detection of keratoconus may give you more treatment options for managing this cornea condition. Our Albuquerque office specializes in keratoconus diagnosis and management and we have technology available that can help us detect keratoconus sooner than other eye care clinics. There is no cure for keratoconus but it can be managed and corneal crosslinking can slow the progression.

If there is a family history of keratoconus, or you’re experiencing poor or blurry vision, make an appointment with our eye doctors so we can create a treatment plan for you.

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Corneal Crosslinking: What to Expect

Corneal crosslinking or corneal collagen crosslinking (CXL) is a minimally invasive procedure that can halt or slow the progression of eye conditions such as keratoconus and pellucid marginal degeneration. Corneal collagen crosslinking, using riboflavin and UV light, received FDA approval on April 18, 2016. This is the only treatment that can prevent the condition from progressing. Doctors at Eyes of New Mexico Family Optometry and Contact Lenses can determine if you’re a good candidate for this procedure.

If you’re a candidate for corneal crosslinking, as discussed with your optometrist, it can be exciting to have a method that can keep your eyesight from getting worse. It is also normal to feel some anxiety over the procedure. Here’s what you can expect from your corneal crosslinking procedure.

Preparing for Corneal Crosslinking

Typically, we will treat only one eye at a time. The other eye will have the procedure after several weeks or months. 

Depending on the contact lenses you wear, your doctor may advise you to not wear your lenses for about two weeks before the procedure. 

The Day of Your Corneal Crosslinking Procedure

  • Don’t wear eye makeup, perfume or aftershave.
  • Bring a pair of sunglasses with you to wear after the procedure.
  • Do not have vitamin C before or after the procedure (including in foods high in vitamin C like orange juice).
  • If you’d like, bring a pair of headphones to listen to music or podcasts during the procedure.

During the Procedure 

  1. Your doctor will place drops in your eyes to numb them.
  2. You will then lie back while the procedure is being done. Your eyelid will be kept open during the procedure using a special tool. Riboflavin (Vitamin B12) eyedrops are then applied to your eye. These drops will allow your cornea to better absorb light and will take about 30 minutes to soak into your cornea.
  3. A UV light is then applied for up to 30 minutes and you’ll look into the light.
  4. Your doctor will place a contact lens in your eye to help with healing.
  5. The whole procedure will take about 60-90 minutes. You shouldn’t feel any pain.

After the Procedure

  • You won’t be able to drive. Please make arrangements for someone to pick you up to take you home. Expect to not be able to drive for about a week following the procedure.
  • You may experience some sensitivity to light. Bring a pair of sunglasses with you to wear afterwards and continue wearing while you’re healing.
  • You will be given a prescription for eyedrops to prevent infection. Carefully follow instructions for using them.
  • You may experience some discomfort for a few days. Cold compresses and ice packs may help.
  • For the first few hours you may want to keep your eyes closed and rest. It’s best not to plan any other events for the day.
  • Contact us if the contact lens falls out and don’t try to put it back in. It will be removed at your post-procedure appointment.
  • Don’t rub your eyes for at least 5 days following your procedure. Keep your eyes from coming into any contact with water. Also avoid wearing makeup.
  • Avoid computer screens, television and reading for the first 24-48 hours.
  • Contact your doctor if you experience severe or worsening pain.

It can take several weeks for your eyes to heal and your vision may not be fully functioning during that time. Most people will return to work about a week after corneal crosslinking, but you may choose to take more time. After your doctor has given you approval, you can return to wearing your glasses or contact lenses you wore before the procedure. During this period, you may notice your vision improving, worsening or changing. It should stabilize after about 3 months.

For the 2-4 weeks following your procedure

  • Avoid dusty, smoky environments for the first two weeks.
  • Put off that vacation for at least a month after the procedure and avoid flying.
  • Avoid sun exposure.
  • Stay away from swimming pools and chlorinated water.
  • Avoid makeup for at least 2 weeks.
  • After 3-6 months, you may need new glasses or contact lenses as your vision prescription may have changed.

Doctors at Eyes of New Mexico Family Optometry and Contact Lenses are experienced with corneal crosslinking and assessing patients for the procedure. If you suffer from keratoconus or pellucid marginal degeneration, or your family has a history of these conditions, contact our office for a consultation. We can treat children and adults using corneal crosslinking. Call 505-828-3937 or schedule an appointment online.