What are Intacs?
“Intacs” is the brand name of an FDA-approved medical device used to treat keratoconus, a progressive eye condition wherein the cornea bulges outward and droops down, making it impossible for your eyes to focus. To understand Intacs and how they work, let’s look at the condition they treat.
What is keratoconus?
In healthy eyes, the cornea (the transparent outer lens of the eye) is dome-shaped and held in place by fibrous proteins called collagen. Keratoconus is a progressive medical condition that occurs when your eyes don’t have enough protective antioxidants to strengthen the collagen; as the protein fibers weaken, they can’t hold the cornea in place, making them bulge outwards like a cone. Keratoconus makes it impossible for you to focus without glasses or contact lenses; people with progressive keratoconus may need a corneal transplant or Intacs.
There’s no scientific consensus on the true root cause of keratoconus. However, the following are potential risk factors for the eye condition:
- Patients with a family history of keratoconus are more likely to suffer from the condition
- It usually shows up in one’s early childhood
- Down syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, osteogenesis imperfecta, and other systemic conditions
- Inflammation from underlying eye diseases or allergies
- Constantly rubbing your eyes
- Black and brown individuals are more likely to get keratoconus
What are Intacs?
Intacs are medical devices approved by the FDA as a suitable alternative to corneal transplant, which, until recently, was considered the standard treatment for keratoconus. Intacs are small and transparent plastic arcs inserted within the cornea of patients with keratoconus. Once in place, the arcs apply gentle pressure over the cornea to flatten them and bring them closer to their original dome shape.
The Intacs procedure is extremely simple and conducted on an outpatient basis. Before the surgery, the doctor provides anesthetic eye drops to numb your eyes and ensure a painless experience. During the treatment, the doctor creates a small tunnel in your eyes to insert the Intacs, choosing the appropriate thickness for your specific needs. The entire procedure concludes within 15 minutes.
After the procedure, you can have someone drive you back home. Your vision will seem significantly sharper a few hours after the treatment, but you should relax and rest your eyes for a few days to ensure optimal recovery. Intacs are placed beneath the cornea’s nerve endings, so you won’t feel any pain, discomfort, or sensation—you won’t feel them at all.
It’s worth noting that Intacs aren’t an alternative to glasses or contact lenses. Patients are given Intacs when keratoconus has progressed enough to make glasses and contact lenses ineffective. Once you receive the Intacs, you can resume wearing contact lenses and glasses to restore your vision. The Intacs will flatten the cornea, but they won’t stop the keratoconus progression altogether.
In some cases, the optometrist may combine Intacs with a procedure called corneal cross-linking for better results. Please contact us to discuss your treatment options with our office.