Keratoconus is a progressive condition, often appearing in the late teens or early twenties, where the cornea thins and changes to form a cone-like shape. This change prevents light entering the eye to be properly focused on the retina causing distorted vision. The condition may progress for ten to 20 years eventually slowing its progression. One eye or both eyes may be affected.
For our eyes to be able to see, light rays must be bent or “refracted” so they can focus directly on the retina, the nerve layer that lines the back of the eye. Together the cornea and the lens refract light rays. The retina receives the picture formed by these light rays and sends the image to the brain through the optic nerve.
What causes Keratoconus?
What causes keratoconus is unclear. Doctors speculate that a genetic link may exist as several members in extended families often have the condition.
What are the symptoms?
Keratoconus is often difficult to detect as the changes in the cornea progress slowly and is often accompanied by myopia or hyperopia. This combination causes both distorted and blurred vision. Frequent prescription changes and sensitivity to light and glare are also common symptoms.
How is Keratoconus diagnosed?
One of the best methods for detecting keratoconus is with a machine called a corneal topographer. This painless test maps the shape of the eye and produces a colored map of changes in the cornea.
What are treatment options?
In mild forms of keratoconus, glasses and contact lenses are prescribed. As the condition progresses, rigid gas permeable contact lenses are the recommended treatment methods.
If keratoconus reaches the point where an individual can no longer tolerate a lens, or contacts no longer provide adequate vision, surgical treatment may be recommended in the form of a corneal transplant or penetrating keratoplasty. Studies are also underway on corneal implants to improve vision.