Keratoconus is a degenerative eye disease that causes the cornea to become thin and irregularly shaped. A healthy cornea is round, curved like a dome, focusing light onto the retina and allowing you to see clearly. When keratoconus has developed, the cornea bulges into a cone shape, which prevents your eyes from focusing properly. The condition can affect one or both eyes, and as it progresses, you may experience increasingly distorted and blurry vision. This is due to the cornea becoming more irregular in shape and scar tissue forming.
The cause of keratoconus is unknown, but research has shown rubbing your eyes can aggravate the disease’s effects. Keratoconus can progress for about 10 to 20 years, at which point it typically begins to slow or stabilize, usually when patients are in their mid 40s to 50s in age.
Patients with keratoconus usually begin to notice symptoms in their teenage years or 20s. Mild cases often involve glare, sensitivity to light, and eye irritation. You may notice your eyeglasses prescription changing drastically as your vision continues to blur and distort. Additionally, as the cornea becomes more cone-shaped, the cornea can swell acutely due to tiny cracks. As these cracks heal over the course of weeks or months, scar tissue forms, which further affects your vision.
Detection & Diagnosis
The symptoms of keratoconus are similar to those of other eye conditions, which is why you should consult with an experienced ophthalmologist to be examined. The disease can usually be diagnosed using a slit lamp microscope. Early keratoconus can be identified with certain corneal photography devices which can map the steepness pattern of the cornea. Keratoconous will clinically appear as corneal thinning, curvature of the cornea, as well as scarring and stress lines of the cone.
Treatment for Keratoconus
In the beginning stages of keratoconus, glasses or specialty contact lenses can typically be used as an effective treatment for the symptoms. If these methods are not sufficient, or if the disease is at a more advanced level, you may require a corneal transplant to improve your vision. Collagen crosslinking (CXL) is a procedure that appears to slow the progression, and in many instances, cause improvement in the corneal shape. This therapy can help to prevent the need for corneal transplantation, and can make contact lens wear more comfortable in the keratoconus eyes. CXL was recently FDA-approved, and Virginia Eye Consultants has become one of the first ophthalmology groups to offer the therapy in Virginia.
Although there is no medication to control the disease’s progression, your doctor may prescribe eye drops to treat causes of itching, rubbing, and swelling if this were to occur.
Contact Virginia Eye Consultants
If you have any questions regarding keratoconus, or would like to schedule an examination with one of our eye care specialists, please contact us today.