Many people suffer with vision problems for years without knowing their blurred vision, glare or halos are due to a condition called keratoconus. One in 2,000 people suffer from keratoconus
What Is Keratoconus?
We see through the cornea, which is the clear outer lens or “windshield” of the eye. Normally, the cornea has a dome shape, like a ball. Sometimes, however, the structure of the cornea is just not strong enough to hold this round shape and the cornea bulges outward like a cone. This condition is called keratoconus.
What Causes Keratoconus?
Tiny fibers of protein in the eye called collagen help hold the cornea in place and keep it from bulging. When these fibers become weak, they cannot hold the shape and the cornea becomes progressively more cone shaped.
- Keratoconus is caused by a decrease in protective antioxidants in the cornea.
- Keratoconus appears to run in families. If you have it and have children, it’s a good idea to have their eyes checked for it starting at age 10.
- Chronic Rubbing
What are the Symptoms?
The changes in the shape of the cornea can happen quickly or may occur over several years.
Keratoconus changes vision in two ways:
- As the cornea changes from a ball shape to a cone shape, the smooth surface becomes wavy. This is called irregular astigmatism.
- As the front of the cornea expands, vision becomes more nearsighted. That is only up close objects can be seen clearly. Anything too far away will look like a blur.
The symptoms are as followed:
- blurred vision
- halos at night
- streaking of lights.
The changes can stop at any time, or they can continue for decades. There is no way to predict how it will progress. In most people who have keratoconus, both eyes are eventually affected, although not always to the same extent. It usually develops in one eye first and then later in the other eye.
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What is the Risk Involved?
With severe keratoconus, the stretched collagen fibers can lead to severe scarring. If the back of the cornea tears, it can swell and take many months for the swelling to go away. This often causes a large corneal scar.
The changes to the cornea can make it impossible for the eye to focus without eyeglasses or contact lenses. In fact, a corneal transplant may be needed to restore vision if the condition is severe.
How Is Keratoconus Diagnosed?
An eye doctor may notice symptoms during an eye exam.
- To be sure you have keratoconus, your doctor needs to measure the shape of the cornea. There are several different ways this can be done.
- The most common way is called ‘cornea topography,’ which snaps a photo of the cornea and analyzes it in seconds. Children of parents with keratoconus should have a cornea topography done every year starting at age 10 to monitor the cornea.
How Is Keratoconus Treated?
- Treatment usually starts with new eyeglasses. If eyeglasses don’t provide adequate vision, then contact lenses, usually rigid gas permeable contact lenses, may be recommended. With mild cases, new eyeglasses can usually make vision clear again. Eventually, though, it will probably be necessary to use contact lenses or seek other treatments to strengthen the cornea and improve vision.
- A treatment called cornea collagen cross linking is often effective to help prevent worsening. Intacs are implants that are placed under the surface of the cornea to reduce the cone shape and improve vision.
- A specialized laser procedure called PTK can smooth out a raised scar (like a callus) and improve contact lens comfort.
- If eyeglasses and contact lenses no longer provide stable and comfortable good quality vision, a cornea transplant can be performed. This involves removing the center of the cornea and replacing it with a donor cornea that is stitched into place.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms consult the doctor and avoid serious damage of your precious vision