5 Questions You May Have About Keratoconus
Keratoconus is a degenerative eye disease that affects the structure of the cornea and results in vision loss that may worsen over time. Keratoconus causes the cornea, the transparent outer layer at the front of the eye, to thin and bulge into an irregular cone shape.
Typically dome-shaped, the cornea serves two primary functions: to bend and focus light so that we can see images clearly, as well as to protect eyes from dirt, germs, and harmful UV rays. In patients with keratoconus, the light bends in atypical ways resulting in blurry and distorted vision.
When individuals learn they may be at risk for developing keratoconus or are newly diagnosed, they usually have questions regarding symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, outcomes, and prognoses to ask their eye care practitioner. Most also want to know how their active lifestyle could potentially be impacted. Here are common questions patients ask about keratoconus when they consult with Miami Contact Lens Institute:
- What causes someone to develop keratoconus?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, keratoconus is an ocular condition that affects 1 in approximately 700 Americans. While there is no known affirmative cause of keratoconus, it has been proven that keratoconus develops when the collagen fibers in the eye weaken. When this happens, the cornea loses its regular shape. This may be caused by an imbalance or disruption of the body’s own production and destruction of corneal tissue by corneal cells. There may be a predisposition to developing the disease present at birth, such as a corneal abnormality.
- What are the risk factors for developing keratoconus?
Genetics may increase the risk of developing this eye condition in patients with a family history of keratoconus. Patients with connective tissue disorders may also have an increased risk. In addition, chronic eye inflammation caused by allergies or irritants that contribute to the destruction of corneal tissue can increase the risk. Lastly, eye rubbing is associated with developing this condition and may also cause disease progression.
- What are the symptoms of keratoconus?
Symptoms of keratoconus include blurred and distorted vision that eyeglasses cannot easily correct. Patients may experience double vision when closing one eye. They may experience sensitivity to light and frequent headaches. They may also have difficulty seeing at night or see halos or glare around bright lights.
- How is keratoconus diagnosed?
In addition to a complete medical history and eye exam, your eye doctor will perform a range of testing to diagnose keratoconus. These tests include corneal topography, a computerized image taken of the eye that maps the cornea’s curve. This test is the most accurate way to diagnose early keratoconus and follow disease progression. In addition, a slit-lamp examination can help detect abnormalities in the mid and outer layers of the cornea. Finally, a pachymetry test is used to measure the thinnest areas of the cornea.
- What are my treatment options?
Depending on the stage of the condition, several effective treatment options are available to patients with keratoconus that can help correct vision loss and prevent the condition from worsening. For the early stages of keratoconus, eyeglasses are prescribed to treat nearsightedness and astigmatism. As keratoconus progresses and eyeglasses are no longer effective, hard contact lenses or rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses are prescribed and yield excellent results. An innovative type of RGP lens that offers a customizable solution and delivers excellent vision correction and superior comfort comes in the form of scleral contact lenses. Scleral contact lenses successfully treat moderate to severe cases of keratoconus.
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For patients with any stage of keratoconus, a procedure called corneal collagen cross-linking was approved by the FDA in 2016 after clinical trials showed that it either slowed disease progression or produced a mild reversal in the bulging of the cornea, making it effective in preventing deteriorating vision. This in-office procedure is also known help reduce irregularity in keratoconus and consequently improve vision in some cases. For severe cases of keratoconus, sometimes corneal transplant procedures are necessary.
While every case of keratoconus is unique, remarkable advancements in available treatment options are now available that restore vision and can slow or possibly even somewhat reverse disease progression. Consult with Miami Contact Lens Institute to ask any questions you have about keratoconus that aren’t covered here. Our team of skilled and experienced eye care practitioners is here to provide valuable information to help you make informed decisions about your eye health.
Testimonial from Deniza, Satisfied Patient
I always have a great experience visiting Aventura office. Dr. Kramer and her staff are very knowledgeable and helpful. I know that my eye health is in great care.