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Understanding Keratoconus: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

What is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is a progressive eye disorder that affects the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped front surface of the eye. In keratoconus, the cornea thins and gradually bulges outward into a cone shape. This abnormal shape prevents light from being focused correctly on the retina, leading to distorted vision.


Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of keratoconus is unknown, but several factors are believed to contribute to its development:

- Genetics: A family history of keratoconus increases the risk of developing the condition.
- Environmental Factors: Chronic eye rubbing, poorly fitted contact lenses, and exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun may contribute to the development of keratoconus.
- Medical Conditions: Certain systemic conditions, such as Down syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, and asthma, are associated with a higher risk of keratoconus.


Symptoms of Keratoconus:

Keratoconus typically begins in adolescence or early adulthood and may progress for 10 to 20 years. Symptoms can vary but often include:

- Blurry or Distorted Vision: This is often one of the first symptoms and may worsen over time.
- Increased Sensitivity to Light: Glare and halos around lights can become bothersome, especially at night.
- Frequent Changes in Prescription: Rapid changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions may indicate keratoconus.
- Eye Strain or Headaches: As the eyes struggle to focus, they can become strained, leading to headaches.


Diagnosing Keratoconus

A comprehensive eye exam is necessary to diagnose keratoconus. The exam may include:

- Corneal Topography: This imaging test maps the surface curvature of the cornea and can detect changes indicative of keratoconus.
- Slit-Lamp Examination: A special microscope allows the eye doctor to examine the cornea's structure and detect thinning or scarring.
- Pachymetry: This test measures the thickness of the cornea, helping to identify thinning areas.

Treatment Options for Keratoconus

While keratoconus cannot be cured, several treatments can help manage its symptoms and improve vision:

1. Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses
In the early stages of keratoconus, eyeglasses or soft contact lenses may correct vision problems. As the condition progresses, rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lenses or hybrid lenses (combining hard and soft lenses) may be needed to provide clearer vision.

2. Corneal Cross-Linking
This minimally invasive procedure strengthens the corneal tissue to halt the progression of keratoconus. It involves applying riboflavin (vitamin B2) eye drops to the cornea, which are then activated with ultraviolet light.

3. Intacs
Intacs are small, crescent-shaped implants inserted into the cornea to flatten its shape and improve vision. This outpatient procedure is an option for patients who cannot achieve adequate vision correction with contact lenses.

4. Corneal Transplant
In severe cases of keratoconus, where other treatments are not effective, a corneal transplant may be necessary. This surgical procedure replaces the damaged cornea with healthy donor tissue.

5. Scleral Lenses
Scleral lenses are large-diameter gas permeable lenses that vault over the entire cornea, resting on the white part of the eye (sclera). They provide a smooth optical surface, improving vision and comfort for patients with keratoconus.

lenses types

Living with Keratoconus

Managing keratoconus involves regular eye exams to monitor the condition and adjust treatments as necessary. Here are some tips for living with keratoconus:

- Avoid Eye Rubbing: Rubbing your eyes can exacerbate keratoconus and should be avoided.
- Protect Your Eyes: Wear sunglasses to shield your eyes from ultraviolet rays and reduce glare.
- Follow Treatment Plans: Adhere to your eye care professional’s recommendations for contact lenses or other treatments.
- Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with new treatments and advancements in keratoconus care.


Contact Us

If you suspect you have keratoconus or are experiencing changes in your vision, schedule an appointment with our office. Our team of specialists is dedicated to providing comprehensive care and the latest treatment options to help you manage your condition and maintain optimal vision.

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