Keratoconus is a non-inflammatory condition that can affect one or both eyes. In patients with keratoconus, the normally rounded dome-shaped cornea which acts as the natural lens of the eye begins to progressively thin, causing it to bulge outwards in a cone-like fashion. This abnormality affects the patient’s vision since the light that enters the eye is no longer refracted properly onto the retina, which is responsible for converting the light into signals that are sent to the brain for interpretation.
Keratoconus is a progressive condition, which means that left untreated, it will get worse and this will be reflected in your symptoms. In addition to blurred vision, patients with keratoconus can also experience symptoms that include:
- Slightly distorted vision where lines that should be straight, such as lampposts, appear bent or wavy.
- Increased sensitivity to light/glare.
- Swelling around the eyes.
- Redness of the eyes.
Contrary to what many people believe, keratoconus rarely causes pain which means that it is easy to overlook the symptoms when they are mild.
Exactly what causes keratoconus isn’t always known. However, there are some factors that are believed to make the condition more likely. These include:
- Having experienced an injury to the eye
- Over-exposure to UV light
- Chronic eye-rubbing
- Sleep apnea
- Wearing contact lenses that are a poor fit
- Specific health conditions that have been shown to be linked to keratoconus, such as Down Syndrome.
Fortunately, patients have a number of different keratoconus treatment options to choose from. Your eye doctor will be able to help you to decide which is likely to be the most effective.
Soft contact lenses are usually one of the first treatments recommended to patients with keratoconus. These are created specifically for each patient with a much larger diameter than is found in regular contact lenses. The reason for this is because the larger the lens is, the more stable it is in the eye and less likely to move around, ensuring that the patient has the clearest possible vision.
These contact lenses are specially made from a gas permeable material which enables oxygen to circulate beneath the eye, keeping it hydrated and healthy. Gas permeable lenses vault over the top of the cornea itself and only make contact with it on either side, leaving a space beneath for the bulge beneath. The shape of the contact lens then provides an even dome through which the light entering the eye can be refracted correctly onto the retina, allowing you to see clearly.
These are extremely similar in design to gas-permeable lenses in that they are much larger in diameter and vault over the surface of the cornea to leave space beneath. However, rather than making contact with the eye on the edge of the cornea, their larger diameter means that they touch the sclera, which is the white part of the eye. This means that they have greater stability than gas-permeable varieties.
This minimally invasive form of eye surgery involves using a hand-held piece of equipment which delivers high-energy radio waves to the cornea to reduce the size of the bulge. This is much more precise than it sounds, with the treatment being planned using advanced topography which creates a map of the surface of your eye and uses it to determine which areas need to be targeted for treatment. Your eye doctor will be able to explain this to you in more detail.
If all other treatments have been unsuccessful, the final treatment option is to undergo a procedure called a corneal transplant. As you may have guessed, this is when your bulging cornea is surgically removed and replaced with an artificial lens.
The best treatment for your keratoconus will really depend on the extent of your condition and what your eye doctor considers to be the most effective at reducing or eliminating your symptoms. To find out more about keratoconus or to schedule an appointment to have your eyes evaluated by our expert team, please call our office.