Keratoconus treatment

Corneal implants

Another option for surgically treating keratoconus is corneal implants. These are plastic rings which are inserted into your cornea to help it keep the correct shape. This is usually done on both eyes at once, under general or local anaesthetic. The implants usually don’t actually cure the keratoconus by themselves, but they can make it easier for glasses or contact lenses to correct it. They can also change the shape of your cornea, which helps contact lenses to fit better.²

Corneal transplant

A corneal transplant is where some or all of your cornea is removed and replaced with a healthy, donated cornea. If your doctor believes you will benefit from a corneal transplant, they will probably try a partial corneal transplant first, which is called deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty. This is where the outer layers of the centre of your cornea are replaced with donor tissue, but the innermost layer is left untouched.²

If the inner layer of your cornea is damaged, or if you’ve already had a partial transplant and it hasn’t worked, you may be offered a full transplant. This is called penetrating keratoplasty. It involves replacing the whole of your cornea with a donor one.²

In either case, the donor cornea will be held in place with tiny stitches. These need to stay in place for a long time: six months for a partial transplant or 12 months for a full one.²

After the surgery it can take a long time to recover. You will probably need to use steroid eye drops for at least six months to prevent your body from rejecting the donated cornea, and these increase the risks of cataracts and glaucoma.²

95% of full transplants, and an even higher proportion of partial transplants, are still healthy after five years. However, after 20 years, 50% of full transplants will have failed. For this reason, your doctor may recommend that you wait as long as possible before having the surgery, especially if you’re younger.²