What is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is a non-inflammatory condition of the cornea in which there is progressive central thinning of the cornea changing it from dome-shaped to cone-shaped. Keratoconus comes from the Greek word meaning “conical cornea.” The cornea is the clear “windshield” of the eye and is responsible for refracting most of the light coming into the eye. Therefore, abnormalities of the cornea can greatly affect the way we see the world. Keratoconus is not a blinding disorder, but does result in increasing nearsightedness (things far away are out of focus) and irregular astigmatism (things look tilted) that can significantly distort your vision. It is almost always bilateral (affecting both eyes). It is a slowly progressive disorder, taking years to develop, and may halt at any stage from mild to severe.
What Are the Symptoms of Keratoconus?
In its earliest stages, keratonconus causes slight blurring and distortion of vision and increases sensitivity to glare and light. These symptoms usually first appear in the late teens and early twenties. Each eye may be affected differently. Keratoconus may progress for 10 to 20 years and then slow in its progression. Patients may also note the need for frequent changes in their glasses. More advanced symptoms include a significant reduction in visual acuity, protrusion of the cornea, or scarring.
What Causes Keratoconus?
Though doctors have recognized keratoconus for well over a century, the underlying reason for its development remains unclear. Keratoconus is currently the topic of much research. Some cases have a hereditary component and studies indicate that about 8 percent of patients have affected relatives. Even excessive eye rubbing has been implicated in this disease.
How is Keratoconus Treated?
Treatment of keratoconus depends on the severity of the condition. Initially, eyeglasses are often successful in correcting the nearsightedness and astigmatism. However, as the disease advances vision is not adequately corrected and requires rigid contact lenses to aid in flattening the corneal surface and providing optimal visual correction. Contact lens fitting can be difficult in patients with keratoconus and require frequent visits and lens changes, but recent advances in the contact lens industry has provided more fitting options. Lastly, when good vision can no longer be attained with contact lenses or the patient?s eye can no longer tolerate a contact lens, a corneal transplant is recommended.
What is a Corneal Transplant?
A corneal transplant is a surgical procedure where an eye surgeon removes the diseased cornea and replaces it with a healthy cornea from a donor. It is performed on an outpatient basis in a hospital operating room. This procedure is only necessary in 10 percent of patients with keratoconus and carries a success rate of over 90 percent. Generally, vision improves significantly after surgery, but may take several months to stabilize. Glasses or contact lenses may still be necessary to provide complete clarity of vision.
The best way to identify whether you have keratoconus is to make an appointment with an eye care professional. The doctor will carefully examine all aspects of your eye and its function to identify any problems. The doctor will then review treatment options with you. As a reminder, any time you are not seeing clearly, you should immediately call for an appointment with an eye care professional.
Here at The Eye Centers of Racine & Kenosha we keep up to date on new research and new treatments. Call 262 637 0500 today! to scheduled your appointment.
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