Keratoconus and what you need to know about it
Most people have a round-shaped cornea, and that’s the way a human cornea is supposed to be. However, sometimes human eyes have a weakening that doesn’t allow the eye to preserve its natural, dome shape. The cornea is then reshaped by bulging outward like a cone. In ophthalmology, this condition is called keratoconus.
What is Behind Keratoconus?
The eye is kept in its right position with the help of tiny fibers of protein called collagen. However, there exists a condition when these fibers become weak, causing the eye shape to change to cone shaped.
The weakening of these fibers of the eye is caused by a decrease in protective antioxidants in the cornea. The eye in itself is a very interesting structure. The cornea cells throw out some damaging materials like by-products. Normally antioxidants will get rid of these by-products. When the collagen weakens because the antioxidant levels are low, the cornea will bulge out.
3 Causes You are Vulnerable to Keratoconus
The reason keratoconus appears in individuals may well be family history. Children may inherit this eye disease and need to be checked for it from early teenage years when the disease is first manifested.
The condition may progress more or less rapidly based on the immunity levels and certain medical or allergic conditions. While the disease usually starts in teenage years, there are cases of its occurrence in early childhood or at later times in life, even after 40. However, these are rare cases.
One significant reason of keratoconus, to the surprise of many people, is extensive and constant eye rubbing. So, if you or your kids have this habit, try to get rid of it: the sooner, the better.
The changes in the shape of the cornea can happen quickly or may occur over several years. This transformation may result in blurred vision, halos around light and at night and unusual glare.
It is of interest to note that the disease progresses differently among different people. While it may stop at some period for some people, and there will be no progression, it may also go on for decades for other people, causing a complete transformation of the eye. Usually keratoconus affects both eyes equally, though it first starts developing in one eye, and later in the other one.
If keratoconus progresses quickly and for a long period of time, the stretching of the collagen fibers can cause severe swelling and scarring. If the back of the cornea tears, it can swell and this condition will take months for the swelling to go away. It is quite probable that this condition will leave some scars around.
Keratoconus and damage to vision
The changes to the cornea can make it impossible for the eye to focus without eyeglasses or contact lenses. In fact, a corneal transplant may be needed to restore vision if the condition is severe.
IMPORTANT! Laser vision correction surgery –LASIK – is dangerous for people with keratoconus because it can further weaken the cornea and make vision worse. Anyone with even a small degree of keratoconus should not have LASIK surgery.
Keratoconus can be first suspected if you are experiencing one or several of the following symptoms:
• Sudden change of vision in one eye only
• Perceiving distorted images from near and afar
• Halos around light
• Double vision in one eye
• Seeing ghost images
• Blurred vision at night
To be sure you have keratoconus, the ophthalmologist needs to measure the shape of the cornea.
The first step in treatment will be the prescription of glasses. In most cases this will bring the vision back to normal. However, if this doesn’t seem to help, the patient will be prescribed special rigid gas permeable contact lenses.
If the case of keratoconus is mild, glasses or lenses will generally suffice. However, if the issue aggravates, and there are scars on the cornea, it may be not very comfortable to wear lenses, so the patient may go through a special procedure called PTK to smooth out the scar on the eye. After this procedure wearing lenses will be comfortable.
A treatment called cornea collagen crosslinking is very effective to help prevent progression. This kind of treatment is very useful in severe cases with quick progression. Special implants are placed under the surface of the cornea to reduce the cone shape and improve vision.
Another treatment option is a cornea transplant. This involves removing the center of the cornea and replacing it with a donor cornea that is stitched into place. After the procedure the patient may need to wear lenses.
Now that you know everything about keratoconus, make sure to see an ophthalmologist if you have any of the symptoms or family history of keratoconus. Also, remember that you can always take better care of your vision with our app.
Read our article about Keratoconus, and schedule a comprehensive eye examination with Dr. Kramer.
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Miami, FL 33179