The word “keratoconus” may sound ominous. Pronounced ker-uh-toe-KOH-nus, this progressive eye disease isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds — if you get treatment right away. With the help of one of our ophthalmologists at Ultra Vision and early intervention, you can overcome this disease and live a normal life.
First, a little bit of eye anatomy. The cornea is the powerhouse of your eye, accounting for nearly two-thirds of your eye’s total optic power and responsible, in part, for your level of vision.
The cornea acts like your local post office. All of the mail is delivered there before it goes out to individual homes in mail trucks. The cornea refracts, or redirects, the light that enters the eye to the correct locations, largely the retina. To do this, the cornea is shaped like a perfect dome, held in place by tiny collagen fibers.
Keratoconus, which typically develops in your late teens or early 20s, occurs when the fibers are weakened and the dome juts out of shape, forming a cone-like shape. You may have heard of its more well-known corneal distortion cousin, astigmatism.
The symptoms of keratoconus are similar to many other eye diseases, so don’t try to diagnose yourself. Your Ultra Vision ophthalmologist is equipped to diagnose keratoconus without much trouble. If you notice any of the following, make an appointment immediately:
- Blurred or distorted vision
- Increasing sensitivity to bright light and glare, including issues with night driving
- The constant need to update your eyeglass prescription level over time
- Sudden worsening or clouding of vision
- Double vision in just one eye
- Light streaking
- Ghost images
Keratoconus does seem to have a genetic component. If one of your parents had the disease, you should get checked regularly. Conversely, if you have the disease, you should begin regular checks for your children at age 10.
There is not a scientific consensus about the root cause of keratoconus, but researchers do know some underlying factors. We’ve already mentioned the genetic connection. Other factors include:
- Overexposure to ultraviolet rays
- History of poorly fitting contacts
- Chronic dry eyes
- Excessive rubbing
Asthma is often associated with keratoconus as well.
If there is good news to be had in all of this, it’s that keratoconus is very treatable. The simplest correction is eyeglasses. If the disease has progressed past the point of eyeglasses, soft contact lenses are recommended and can help reshape the cornea. If the glasses or contacts don’t help, we may recommend one of these treatments:
Corneal cross-linking strengthens corneal tissue in an effort to pull the cornea back into place. Your opthamologist uses UV light and eyedrops to strengthen bonds in your cornea. This treatment has been shown to halt or slow the progression of keratoconus.
Small, crescent-shaped implants called Intacs are surgically placed around the edge of your cornea. Once in place, they help flatten the cornea to improve vision. Intacs may also slow the progression of keratoconus.
A cornea transplant is just what it sounds like. The all or part of the cornea is removed and replaced with a donor cornea.
Before considering any treatment plan, make sure to consult one of our expert ophthalmologists.