Written by Dr. James Lehmann on 12/21/18

What is keratoconus? Do you have it? If you have blurry or distorted vision and glasses aren’t helping, then perhaps you are suffering from keratoconus.

In this article, we are taking a closer look at this relatively unheard of condition. It can help you understand your treatment options in case you have developed keratoconus.

What is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is an eye problem that occurs in 1 out of 2000 people in the general population. It affects the cornea of the eye.

The cornea is the clear front part of the eye. It covers the pupil and the iris and is responsible for focusing light into the eye. Keratoconus happens when the cornea becomes thinner and bulges out like a cone. This gives the eye an unusual shape and distorts vision.

Keratoconus occurs in young age. Patients can develop keratoconus in one eye or both eyes.

Keratoconus Causes

Scientists are still not sure what causes keratoconus. There are several common causes that might be responsible, but so far there is no conclusive data.

People suffering from keratoconus often suffer from other conditions as well, and there might be a connection there. Commonly associated diseases with keratoconus include:

  • Eczema
  • Asthma
  • Allergies

Any behaviors that encourage eye rubbing can hasten the onset of keratoconus. There is also data suggesting that keratoconus may be hereditary.

If you suffer from keratoconus, you should get your children to an optometrist or an ophthalmologist every year to check for signs of keratoconus.

Keratoconus Symptoms

As we have seen above, keratoconus can occur in one or both eyes. The symptoms start out mild and worsen over time. Symptoms can also differ between the two eyes, leading to different vision in the eyes.

The first symptoms include blurry vision. This can cause your prescription glasses to feel useless. As your keratoconus progresses, you may need a new eyeglass prescription on an annual basis.

If you find yourself in need of new glasses months after your last prescription, then you should make an appointment with an eye specialist to get your eyes checked for keratoconus.

Other early symptoms include:

  • Mildly blurred and distorted vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Swelling
  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Progressively worse myopia
  • Progressively worse astigmatism

More advanced symptoms include seeing ghost images or unusual glares. If you are “seeing double” then you might have advanced keratoconus.

The significant symptoms of advanced keratoconus include:

  • Significantly blurred and distorted vision
  • Noticeable change in the shape of the eye
  • Inability to wear contact lenses
  • Scarred cornea

Typically, keratoconus develops over the course of years. Sometimes keratoconus advances rapidly and the symptoms worsen in a matter of months.

Keratoconus Diagnosis

An optometrist or an ophthalmologist can easily diagnose keratoconus. There are no special examinations. A routine corneal exam will reveal if it’s thinned out or curved.

During a routine exam, your eye specialist will measure the curvature of your cornea for abnormalities. If keratoconus is suspected, your eye specialist will map the surface of your cornea in more detail.

Keratoconus Treatments

If you have been diagnosed with keratoconus, there are many ways to treat your condition. Let’s see all the available treatment options below:

Prescription Glasses

Glasses are only viable for early stages of keratoconus. They treat the symptoms of poor vision but do not correct the problem.

If you have keratoconus, you will need to get a new prescription every few years. Eventually, prescription glasses alone will not be able to correct the problem as the condition worsens.

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses can treat the symptoms of keratoconus and give you good vision while the condition progresses.

To correct the vision problems from keratoconus, your specialist will prescribe specially made contact lenses. These even out the bulge in the cornea and correct vision problems. Still, contact lenses might not be the solution as keratoconus become worse.

Surgery

If you suffer from advanced keratoconus, contact lenses alone won’t help. Corneal surgery is then the only option. Let’s see the types of surgery below:

Corneal Transplant

A corneal transplant will replace most or all of your cornea with health cornea tissue from a donor. This is the most drastic and permanent solution to keratoconus.

For this type of surgery, precision lasers remove the diseased tissue and your ophthalmologist implants the new layers to correct the problem. Depending on the severity, this can be a complete corneal replacement or just a few corneal layers.

Collagen Cross-Linking

This procedure uses UV light and vitamin B2 to halt the progression of keratoconus. This will stiffen the cornea and prevent it from bulging out further. This will not fix the problem, but prevent it from worsening.

Intracorneal Ring Implants

These are small rings that your ophthalmologist surgically inserts into your cornea. These implants will flatten the cornea, restoring it to its original form.

Permanent Implantable Contact Lenses

This surgical procedure implants permanent contact lenses to correct the vision of a patient suffering from keratoconus. This is less invasive procedure than transplants.

Permanent lenses will not provide a final solution if keratoconus worsens. You might still need prescription glasses if your keratoconus progresses.

What is Keratoconus? Now You Know

As we have seen above, there are several treatment options for keratoconus. Here at Focal Point Vision, we specialize in eye treatments for any type of condition, including keratoconus.

We aim to deliver the highest quality eye care, combining timely service, advanced technology, and compassion for our patients.

If you liked our “What is Keratoconus?” article, you can read more about this and other eye conditions at our blog. Contact Focal Point Vision today to make an appointment to discuss the right treatment for your eye conditions.