What Is Keratoconus?

06 June 2019

Author: Alex

What Is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is a common eye disease that affects the cornea of the eye. The cornea is usually a perfect, clear dome shape which light enters through. It then bends and directs light rays to the retina, allowing a person to see clearly.

When keratoconus begins to develop, the cornea starts to thin, becoming weaker which causes it to expand into a cone like shape.

This could lead to your eyesight becoming increasingly myopic (shortsighted) because the light passing through the cornea may not bend to focus on to your retina accurately. Objects in the distance will become blurry and distorted, but your near vision should still be clear.

Keratoconus Causes

The reason keratoconus occurs is due to the lack of antioxidants which protects the collagen in the cornea. Collagen is the small fibres of protein that holds the cornea in place and keeps it from bulging from the eye.

When the antioxidants protecting the fibres of protein weaken, the collagen weakens with it, thus becoming more difficult to hold the dome shape of the cornea. This results in the cornea progressively becoming a cone shape.

It is believed that keratoconus is a hereditary eye disease which can run in the family. This is why parents who suffer with the eye disease are advised to get their children checked by an optometrist, to catch it in the early stages if needed.

Keratoconus Symptoms

Common Keratoconus symptoms you can look out for are:

  • Swelling or redness of the eye
  • Increased sensitivity to light and glare (this may cause difficulties with night time driving)
  • Frequent need to change the prescription in glasses/contact lenses
  • Lights streaks
  • Slight distortion of the vision, where straight lines may look bent or wavy

It is believed that keratoconus can be found in up to 1 in every 450 people and affect men and woman equally. Diagnosis usually takes place at a young age, in a person’s late teens or early twenties. At early stages vision is often unaffected yet can still be detected by an optometrist.

Keratoconus Treatments

At Ultralase Eye Clinics Ltd we can offer a special type of treatment which slows down the process from getting progressively worse. We assess the severity, and then in surgery apply a corneal implant known as Intacs. These arc-shaped implants can help reshape the front surface of the eye and the procedure only takes around 10 minutes.

If you are someone who has a mild form of keratoconus, visual aids such as glasses or contact lenses can help with the blurry vision that it causes. However, if the cornea becomes weaker, resulting in thinning and an increasingly irregular shape, visual aids may not be able to correct the blurred vision.

There are a number of other solutions for severe cases of keratoconus. One being customised soft lenses. Contact lens manufactures have recently started to provide custom soft contact lenses which are tailor made to the individual's eye measurements.  This can correct mild-to-moderate cases of keratoconus and is considered to be a more comfortable solution.

Other forms of contact lenses that can treat Keratoconus are:

  • Hybrid contact lenses
  • Scleral and semi-scleral lenses
  • "Piggybacking" contact lenses
  • Gas permeable contact lenses
  • Intacs
  • Prosthetic lenses

Another method of treatment you can get is corneal cross linking. This is a procedure that strengthens corneal tissue to then prevent the surface of the cornea bulging. There is also corneal transplant, also known as a penetrating keratoplasty, which is considered a last resort for cases where contact lenses or therapies can no longer provide clear vision. However, even with a transplant you may still need to use visual aids for clear vision.

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