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Keratoconus Intacs® are small, clear, medical grade plastic implants that are inserted into the cornea of a patient with keratoconus to reshape the cornea and improve vision. Keratoconus is a disorder of the eye where the cornea thins and distorts itself into a cone shape instead of the normal gradual curve. The insertion of keratoconus Intacs® is a minor surgical procedure that is performed on an outpatient basis. Once in place, the implants reshape some of the irregularities of the cornea by flattening the abnormal bulge. Vision is usually improved by the procedure but many patients still need corrective lenses.
The plastic that is used to make keratoconus Intacs® is a clear polymer that has been shown to be compatible with the human eye. The same medical grade plastic is used to make cataract lens implants, and there are very few reported cases of irritation or reactions caused by the material. They are shaped like tiny, extremely thin half circles. They are typically used in pairs that form a ring shape.
In a patient with keratoconus, the cornea gradually develops a cone shaped bulge that causes severe vision distortion. Keratoconus Intacs® have been approved for the treatment of these patients by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a way to improve vision and possibly postpone or prevent the need for a cornea transplant. The insertion process is a minor surgical treatment and is usually performed in the office of an experienced eye surgeon.
Before beginning the procedure, the patient is usually given local anesthesia in the form of eye drops along with an oral sedative if necessary. The eye is held open with a clamp, and a tiny incision is made in the cornea. An opening is made between the layers of the cornea near the edge, and the keratoconus Intacs® are inserted into the structure of the cornea with one on each side of the iris. Recovery time is relatively short, and some patients report improved vision right away.
The keratoconus Intacs® work by changing the cornea's shape and flattening the cone shaped abnormality from within. They do this by gently pushing out the sides where they are placed, which lowers the top of the curvature and produces a flattening effect. They are available in different thicknesses, with thicker rings providing more of a flattening effect. They are removable and can be replaced if the patient's needs change. Patients with keratoconus usually still need glasses or contact lenses after having keratoconus Intacs® inserted, but will experience some improvement in vision.
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