Keratoconus is an eye disease in which the normally round cornea becomes thin and starts to bulge into a cone-like shape. When this happens, light entering the eye is abnormally refracted. When the altered light reaches the retina, the result is distorted vision.
As the cornea becomes irregular in shape, it causes nearsightedness and astigmatism to develop and progress. It may also lead to light sensitivity.
Keratoconus can affect one or both eyes. When keratoconus impacts both eyes, the deterioration in vision can make it difficult to perform daily tasks such as driving and reading normal size print.
Keratoconus typically begins in the teen-age years or early 20s and progresses over time, usually reaching its peak by the age of 40. On average, this eye condition affects one in every one thousand people. It is more prevalent in males.
What Causes Keratoconus?
While the exact cause of keratoconus has not been specifically identified, research indicates keratoconus may be linked to an imbalance of enzymes within the cornea. This imbalance causes the cornea to weaken and bulge into a cone-like shape. The occurrence of an enzyme imbalance within the cornea may be genetic; it may be a result of the environment; or it may be a combination of both.
Keratoconus is also associated with overexposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun, excessive eye rubbing and chronic eye irritation.
With the early stages of keratoconus, eyeglasses or soft contact lenses often provide adequate vision correction. As the eye condition advances into more advanced stages, rigid, gas-permeable contact lenses (RGP lenses) may be used to restore clear vision.
There are also many types of contact lenses which have been engineered specifically for keratoconus. These types of lenses are typically a blend of both soft and hard contact lenses.
In 10% to 25% of people with this eye condition, keratoconus will advance to the point where corrective lenses (either eyeglasses or contact lenses) are no longer effective. At this point, surgery becomes necessary.
There are a variety of surgical procedures to treat keratoconus including: placing corneal inserts just under the surface of the eye; procedures for strengthening the cornea; surgical techniques for re-shaping the cornea and; corneal transplants.
Regular Eye Examinations and Advancements with Keratoconus
Eye examinations conducted on a regular basis are a very important part of maintaining optimal eye health and clear vision. Diagnosing eye conditions like keratoconus early helps you and your eye doctor work together to develop the right treatment plan specifically for you and your needs.
Visiting your eye doctor regularly also provides you with access to the latest advancements in keratoconus research and treatment. Much work is being done studying this eye condition. Many new tools and techniques are emerging to treat it. Your eye doctor is a tremendous resource for gaining knowledge about these advancements and how they can help you.
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