Keratoconus is an eye condition that occurs when the cornea in your eye begins to thin out and bulge out, resembling a cone. When the cornea does this, it changes shape and affects your vision.
Keratoconus often starts when you’re in your late teens to early twenties and can get progressively worse over the course of ten to twenty years.
At RGB Eye Associates, our ophthalmologists have experience treating keratoconus and other eye conditions. You’ll find the care you’re looking for with our excellent team.
What is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is an eye condition that affects the cornea. The cornea is the clear, round part located at the front of your eye.
When someone has keratoconus, it changes the shape of the cornea, affecting how well they can see. The cornea’s shape changes to appear more cone-shaped instead of like a smooth dome.
As the cornea changes shape, it can cause blurry vision and may make your eye more sensitive to light and glare. Keratoconus typically affects both eyes, although the condition may be worse in one eye.
The condition may get slowly but progressively worse for a decade or longer.
The condition usually affects young people and usually starts between the ages of 10 and 25 years.
What are the Symptoms of Keratoconus?
If you find out you have keratoconus, the symptoms can change as the disease progresses to the more advanced stages. Symptoms may include:
- Experiencing blurry or distorted vision
- Frequent changes in prescription for corrective lenses
- Sensitivity to glare, which the patient may encounter when driving at night
- Seeing halos around bright lights
- Double vision when looking with one eye
If you (or your child) experience a rapid deterioration of your vision, it’s essential to see your eye doctor as soon as possible. Although these signs are not exclusive to keratoconus, it’s necessary to rule out other eye conditions and determine the cause of your vision problems.
How Does an Eye Doctor Diagnose Keratoconus?
If your eye doctor suspects that you may have keratoconus, they will conduct a complete eye exam and review your entire medical history. Your ophthalmologist may also perform one or more tests to help diagnose the condition.
Your eye doctor may choose to run the following tests:
Your eye doctor will shine a beam of light on the surface of your eye. They will also look at your eye with a microscope simultaneously. Performing a slit-lamp exam allows your ophthalmologist at RGB Eye Associates to evaluate the cornea’s shape and look for other issues.
Your eye doctor will focus a circle of light on the cornea during keratometry. They’ll measure the reflection to determine the cornea’s shape.
Corneal mapping uses special computerized photographic tests to check the shape and thickness of the cornea.
What Causes Keratoconus?
Medical researchers haven’t determined the exact cause of the condition. However, some factors seem to be connected to the condition or increase a patient’s chances of developing it. Those factors include:
Keratoconus seems to run in families. If a parent has the condition, they should have their children checked regularly for signs they are developing it.
Certain medical conditions
Patients with Down syndrome, retinitis pigmentosa, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome may be more prone to developing keratoconus.
Frequently rubbing your eyes can cause permanent damage to the cornea. For some people, this may result in the development of keratoconus.
Chronic eye inflammation
Tissues in the cornea may suffer damage if your eyes are constantly inflamed because of allergies.
Ethnicity or Race
You’re more likely to develop keratoconus if you’re African-American or of Latino descent.
Are There Treatment Options for Keratoconus?
Treatment for keratoconus varies depending upon what stage it is. Earlier on, treatment is only limited to glasses or contact lenses. But as keratoconus progresses, you’ll need to seek further treatment as your vision worsens.
Early Stages of Keratoconus
In the early stages of keratoconus, your vision starts to blur. Patients may develop astigmatism because the cornea’s surface has become irregular.
Your eye doctor will prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct your eyesight. If eyeglasses or soft lenses don’t provide enough correction, your eye doctor may suggest rigid, gas-permeable contact lenses.
Intermediate Stage of Keratoconus
As the condition progresses, your eye doctor may suggest corneal cross-linking. Corneal cross-linking is an in-office procedure that your eye doctor performs by applying a vitamin B solution to the eye.
They activate it by using ultraviolet light—corneal cross-linking causes the cornea to develop more bonds between collagen fibers. Collagen is the protein that helps make the cornea strong.
Cross-linking doesn’t cure keratoconus, but it can stop the condition from progressing further. It may even improve vision to some degree.
Advanced Stage of Keratoconus
When keratoconus is in the advanced stage, patients may find contact lenses very uncomfortable. Your eye doctor may suggest an implantable ring to help flatten the corneal surface.
Contacts may feel more comfortable and fit better with a flatter cornea. Another option for advanced keratoconus is a corneal transplant. Your surgeon will remove all or part of your cornea and replace it with a donor cornea.
Are Complications Possible with Keratoconus?
One possible complication of keratoconus is that the inside lining of the cornea can break, allowing fluid to enter the cornea. If fluid enters the cornea, this causes the cornea to swell quickly, reducing vision and causing scarring.
The swelling often goes away on its own, but it can result in a scar that affects your vision.
Can LASIK Help Keratoconus?
Patients with keratoconus should not have laser vision correction surgery such as LASIK. The laser vision correction procedure can weaken the cornea even more than the condition has weakened it. Undergoing LASIK surgery with keratoconus can result in reduced vision.
What Can I Do to Prevent Keratoconus?
Just as we don’t know what causes keratoconus, there is no known way to prevent it. Regular eye care is vital for everyone, but it’s imperative to see an eye doctor if you’re experiencing vision problems or a condition like keratoconus runs in your family.
Do you have concerns about keratoconus? Contact RGB Cataract and LASIK in Gainesville, TX at 903-892-3282 to schedule an appointment with one of our eye doctors.