What is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is an eye disease that affects the structure and shape of the cornea, resulting in vision loss. The cornea is the transparent outer layer at the front of the eye, mostly made up of water and a protein called collagen. Collagen makes the cornea strong and flexible, and helps to keep the standard round shape of the cornea. The round shape focuses light, allowing people to see clearly.
With Keratoconus, the cornea thins and develops surface irregularities. The thinned cornea is unable to maintain a healthy round shape and becomes cone shaped, resulting in impaired vision. Keratoconus usually affects both eyes.
Symptoms of Keratoconus
Symptoms of early Keratoconus are a slight blurring of vision and declining vision that cannot be easily corrected. Other symptoms include seeing a glare around lights, poor night vision, eye irritation or pain and associated headaches, increased sensitivity to light and vision clouding.
Your doctor will review your medical history and perform a complete eye exam and if Keratoconus is a concern, additional tests may be required. Additional diagnostic tools for Keratoconus include Corneal Topography, which measures the curve of the cornea, a slit-lamp exam which can detect corneal abnormalities and Pachymetry, which measures the thinnest areas of the cornea.
Treatment of Keratoconus
The early stages of Keratoconus can be treated with glasses for nearsightedness and astigmatism. As symptoms progress, patients will need to switch to a contact lens, usually a hard contact lens.
For more advanced Keratoconus, an available treatment is corneal collagen cross-linking. This is a one-time, in-office procedure that involves applying a solution of vitamin B to the eye and activating the solution with ultraviolet light. The solution helps new collagen bonds to form, preserving corneal strength and shape. This treatment cannot make the cornea normal again, but can stop the progression of Keratoconus and in some cases may improve vision.
Another option is a corneal ring, which can be implanted in the eye to flatten the surface of the cornea, creating improvement in vision and more comfort for wearing hard contact lenses. This can also be down as an in-office procedure and only takes about 15 minutes.
For severe cases, a corneal transplant may be performed, replacing the damaged cornea with a healthy donor cornea. These transplants are often performed as outpatient surgery. In most cases, glasses or contacts are still required for optimum vision.
With any eye disease, early detection is key. Consistent preventative care will help us in managing and slowing or halting the progression of Keratoconus. Be sure to visit us once a year for an annual eye exam; should we detect any abnormalities during your exam, we are able to do many of the additional diagnostic tests onsite in our Puyallup, Spokane, Spokane Valley and Tacoma offices. We also work to co-manage additional care with our regional vision care partners.
Make eye health a priority and book an annual exam at any of our four locations in Washington state.