For people with normal vision, the cornea — the transparent layer at the front of the eye that focuses light into it — is dome-shaped. For Mohan, it was conical, a condition doctors here diagnosed as keratoconus.
Although little is known about the genesis of keratoconus, doctors say frequent rubbing of the eyes and genetic factors could increase chances of the cornea thinning and eventually degenerating. It affects people around 10 years old and then progresses for a decade or longer.
By the time Kumar, 25, consulted doctors at Dr Agarwal’s eye hospital here, his vision was distorted in both eyes. “We had two options: strengthen his cornea by introducing synthetic implants or a complete cornea transplant,” said Dr Soosan Jacob from the hospital who led the procedure. The first option was ruled out as the layer would continue to be misshapen. Besides, introducing synthetic implants could raise the risk of infections later.
There was also a third option – an idea Dr Jacob and her team had presented as scientific papers. It involved implanting donor cornea in the form of two semi-circular rings that alter the shape of the cornea. “While in complete cornea transplant, we use 8mm of donor tissue, in this, we need only 400microns of it,” said Dr Jacob. While corneal transplant involves at least 16 sutures in the eyes, in this procedure the donor tissues are introduced through laser. The cost of the procedure, called Corneal Allogenic Intra-Stromal Segement (CAIRS), is around Rs 50,000, half of what inserting a synthetic implant would cost.
Kumar was monitored for more than a year after the procedure. “All it took was 20 minutes to correct a condition I struggled with for 3 years,” said Kumar, spoke to the media on Thursday. He said it took a week for his vision to be restored completely.