Despite years of research, keratoconus still isn’t fully understood. Although the specific causes of keratoconus are unknown, it’s thought that a predisposition to the condition already exists at birth.
If you have keratoconus, you probably have anxious thoughts that it will never stop progressing. Any eye condition that impairs our ability to see can be frightening. Unfortunately, Keratoconus has no cure, but it can be effectively managed with treatment.
Keratoconus, while less common than many other eye diseases, can significantly impact your vision, so it’s important to talk to your optometrist as soon as you notice any symptoms and get regular eye exams to monitor your vision health. The most effective treatment for this condition is determined by its severity.
What Is Keratoconus?
When you have keratoconus, the cornea, the transparent front surface of your eye, thins and starts to protrude outward. Your cornea is held in place by tiny protein fibers called collagen, but if these fibers become weak, it can cause vision problems.
The cornea is strengthened and stretched by collagen, which helps it keep its normal, rounded form. In this healthy rounded shape, light is concentrated properly allowing you to see well. Keratoconus causes the cornea to thin and swell into a cone shape, impairing vision.
Doctors are unsure as to why people develop keratoconus. In some cases, it appears to be genetic. One in every 10 people who have keratoconus also has a parent who has it. Keratoconus is also linked to:
- Eye allergies
- Excessive eye rubbing
- Connective tissue disorders like Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
Symptoms Of Keratoconus
Many keratoconus patients are completely unaware that they have the disease. The first symptom is a gradual blurring or deterioration of vision that’s difficult to correct. Other keratoconus symptoms include:
- Eye irritation
- Sensitivity to bright light
- Sudden worsening or clouding of vision
- Halos and glare around lights
- Night vision problems
How Is Keratoconus Diagnosed?
Keratoconus is detectable during a routine eye exam. Your eye doctor will examine and measure the curvature of your cornea. This aids in determining whether or not its shape has changed. Your optometrist may also use a special computer to map the surface of your cornea. This detailed map shows the surface of the cornea.
How To Treat Keratoconus
There are several treatments available to help manage keratoconus effectively.
Early on, eyeglasses or soft contact lenses can assist in correcting vision distortion caused by keratoconus. To treat keratoconus, soft contact lenses can be custom-made and precisely measured to your eyes.
Contact lenses designed to treat keratoconus are typically larger in diameter than traditional contact lenses to provide more stability in the eye.
- Hard Contact Lenses: To treat moderate keratoconus, rigid gas-permeable contact lenses are commonly used. Although hard lenses can be uncomfortable at first, they can provide excellent vision for many people. This lens can be tailored to your specific cornea measurements.
- Corneal Cross-Linking: Corneal cross-linking is the process of forming links in your cornea’s collagen fibers with riboflavin and controlled ultraviolet light. This flattens or stiffens your cornea, preventing it from bulging further.
Treating Advanced Keratoconus
If keratoconus has progressed to the point where none of the other options are likely to be effective, your optometrist may recommend more aggressive treatments.
A standard contact lens may become too uncomfortable to wear if you have severe keratoconus. Intacs are plastic C-shaped rings that are implanted and used to flatten the surface of the cornea, allowing for better vision. They may also improve contact lens fit.
Corneal transplants may be needed if the cornea becomes scarred, swollen with fluid, or too thin and irregular. The goal of corneal transplantation is to replace a patient’s natural cornea with that of a donor. As a result, the cornea should be clearer and less irregular than before.
There are several surgical options available, including full-thickness and partial-thickness transplants. Because not all patients are candidates for these procedures, it’s important to discuss these options with your optometrist.
Corneal transplants need a lot of postoperative rehabilitation and can require more surgeries to improve eyesight. The sutures placed during surgery must be taken out several months after surgery. Once the patient has fully recovered, contact lenses can be used to enhance eyesight.
Discuss Options With Your Optometrist
While blurry vision may appear to be a temporary issue, don’t ignore keratoconus symptoms. The sooner your eye doctor diagnoses an eye condition, the sooner you can be treated.If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of keratoconus, book an appointment with your optometrist to discuss your concerns and determine the best treatment options for your specific situation.