If you’re reading this, you or someone you care about may have been recently diagnosed with keratoconus. We’ve compiled a few commonly asked questions about keratoconus to help you understand what it is, what causes it, and how your eye doctor can help.
1. What Is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is a progressive, non-inflammatory disease that causes the cornea to thin and bulge, resulting in a cone-shaped cornea. Over time, this bulge leads to myopia and irregular astigmatism, and vision becomes progressively distorted. Ongoing treatment is crucial to prevent significant vision loss.
2. What Are the Symptoms of Keratoconus?
Many patients aren’t aware that they have keratoconus, which typically begins during the teenage years.
Symptoms of keratoconus include:
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Blurry vision
- Halos and glare around lights
- Increased sensitivity to bright light
- Headaches or eye irritation associated with eye pain
- Progressively worsening vision that’s not easily corrected
3. What Causes Keratoconus?
While there is no one cause of keratoconus, a paper published in Biomed Research International (2015) identified these risk factors:
- Genetics. About one in 10 people with keratoconus also has a family member with the condition.
- Inflammation. Irritation and inflammation from allergies, asthma and other atopic eye diseases can lend to the development of keratoconus.
- Frequent eye rubbing. Intense and frequent eye rubbing is thought to thin out the cornea and can worsen the condition.
- Underlying disorders. Keratoconus has been associated with several conditions, including Down syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Leber congenital amaurosis, Marfan syndrome and Osteogenesis imperfecta.
- UV light. UV light can cause oxidative stress, which weakens the corneas in predisposed eyes.
- Weak collagen. In a healthy eye, small protein fibers called collagen help keep the cornea in a dome-like shape and free from bulges. In the case of keratoconus, the collagen fibers become weak and therefore can’t maintain the shape of the eye, which causes the cornea to bulge.
4. How Is Keratoconus Treated?
Scleral lenses are the most common and successful treatment for patients with keratoconus. These are specialized rigid, gas permeable contact lenses that have a very wide [diameter] and vault over the entire corneal surface, making them effective and comfortable for people with keratoconus.
5. Is There a Cure for Keratoconus?
Currently, there is no cure for keratoconus. However, in most cases, it can be successfully managed.
For mild to moderate keratoconus, scleral contact lenses are typically the treatment of choice, as they provide clear, comfortable vision.
A relatively non-invasive procedure called corneal cross-linking (CXL) can stabilize and strengthen a thinning and irregularly shaped cornea.
At Fox Chase Family Eye Care, we can recommend the best treatment options for your keratoconus, to help preserve your vision, and ensure the highest level of comfort and visual acuity. Call to schedule an appointment to start discussing your keratoconus treatment options.
Fox Chase Family Eye Care serves patients from Philadelphia, Jenkintown, Cheltenham, and Fox Chase, all throughout Pennsylvania.
- A: Keratoconus does not typically cause total blindness. However, as keratoconus progresses it can cause visual impairment including blurred distance vision, distortion, glare, astigmatism, extreme light sensitivity and even vision loss that can be classified as “legal blindness.
- A: Yes, in approximately 90% of keratoconus cases, the disease will manifest in both eyes. However, the rate of progression and the timing of the onset of the disease is different for each eye.