What is the keratoconus eye disease?

Keratoconus is defined by All About Vision as “a progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea thins and begins to bulge into a cone-like shape. This cone shape deflects light as it enters the eye on its way to the light-sensitive retina, causing distorted vision”. This eye disease can affect one or both eyes.

The American Optometric Association further explains that keratoconus often develops during a person’s teens or early 20’s, and can continue to progress for up to 20 years. During this progression, the sufferer’s eyesight becomes increasingly worse. Nearsightedness and astigmatism develop as a result of the cornea bulging during keratoconus’ progression.

Symptoms

Keratoconus symptoms include blurry vision and sensitivity to light or glare. Double vision can also occur with keratoconus. If you are experiencing these symptoms, your eye care professional can measure the shape of your corneas to determine whether or not your symptoms are caused by keratoconus.

Causes

What causes keratoconus? It is the result of a weakened cornea due to a lack of antioxidants and it often runs in families. According to All About Vision there is also evidence linking keratoconus to overexposure to the sun’s UV rays, chronic eye rubbing, and poorly fit contact lenses.

Treatment

keratoconusDuring the early stages of keratoconus, vision can be corrected with contact lenses or eyeglasses. As the condition progresses, however, these solutions can fail to provide the degree of vision correction that is needed. There are several solutions for those who are seeking treatment for keratoconus. All About Vision lists the following nine options for treating keratoconus after normal contact lenses and glasses no longer provide adequate vision correction:

  1. Corneal cross-linking (CXL) – strengthening the corneal tissue to prevent further bulging
  2. Custom soft contact lenses – contact lenses specifically made with a patient’s corneal measurements
  3. Gas permeable contact lenses – a rigid contact lens that provides a uniform refracting surface
  4. “Piggybacking” contact lenses – this method consists of wearing a typical soft contact lens underneath a gas permeable contact lens to increase comfort
  5. Hybrid contact lenses – hybrid lenses combine aspects of soft contact lenses and gas permeable contact lenses and are another good option for those with keratoconus
  6. Scleral and semi-scleral lenses – these lenses are gas permeable lenses with a larger diameter to be more stable and comfortable
  7. Intacs – plastic inserts for the eyes that are implanted in a brief surgical procedure to correct vision
  8. Topography-guided conductive keratoplasty- a procedure using radio waves to reshape the eye’s cornea
  9. Corneal transplant – a surgical procedure to replace the misshapen cornea with a healthy cornea from a donor

Those with keratoconus eye disease have a wide variety of treatment options. Your eye care professional can discuss these options with you in more detail and help you select the best treatment for your eyes.