Keratoconus and the Impact of Treatment on Patients’ Quality of Life: A Qualitative Study

Ophthalmology and therapy(2023)

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Introduction Keratoconus has a significant impact on patients’ quality of life (QoL), from diagnosis to the advanced stages of the disease. The aim of this research was to identify domains of QoL affected by this disease and its treatment. Methods Phone interviews were conducted using a semi-structured interview guide, with patients with keratoconus stratified according to their current treatment. A board of keratoconus experts helped identify the guide’s main themes. Results Thirty-five patients (rigid contact lenses, n = 9; cross-linking, n = 9; corneal ring implants, n = 8; and corneal transplantation, n = 9) were interviewed by qualitative researchers. Phone interviews revealed several QoL domains affected by the disease and its treatments: “psychological”, “social life”, “professional life”, “financial costs” and “student life”. All domains were impacted, independently of the treatment history. Few differences were found between treatment regimens and keratoconus stages. Qualitative analysis enabled the development of a conceptual framework based on Wilson and Cleary’s model for patient outcomes common to all patients. This conceptual model describes the relationship between patients’ characteristics, their symptoms, their environment, their functional visual impairment and the impact on their QoL. Conclusions These qualitative findings supported the generation of a questionnaire to evaluate the impact of keratoconus and its treatment on patients’ QoL. Cognitive debriefings confirmed its content validity. The questionnaire is applicable for all stages of keratoconus and treatments and may help tracking change over time in regular clinical settings. Psychometric validation is yet to be performed before its use in research and clinical practices.
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