Keratoconus - Characteristics and Treatment

31 January, 2020
Keratoconus is a condition in which vision becomes blurry. In addition, it has to do with various degrees of myopia and astigmatism.

Keratoconus is an ocular condition that specifically affects the cornea – the transparent, dome-shaped membrane that forms the frontal part of the eye, in front of the iris. Its function is to focus the light rays for proper vision.

This is a progressive disease that alters the shape of the cornea, causing it to change its concave shape to that of a cone. In addition, the cornea also thins down and this alters the way in which the light rays enter it, meaning that it can’t focus properly and this leads to blurry vision.

Keratoconus is a rare disease, so its incidence is low. Estimates indicate that there are only about 2 new cases per every 100,000 inhabitants each year. In addition, there are many other factors that influence its development.

However, it usually afflicts teenagers and young adults. It significantly affects a person’s quality of life, as it greatly alters their vision. In today’s article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about this condition.

What is keratoconus?

 

An eye test.

As we mentioned above, the normal shape of the cornea is dome-like and this shape is important because it allows the light rays to hit the retina just right so that it can properly carry out the vision process.

Keratoconus progressively modifies the cornea and its dome shape changes and becomes conical. This is a non-inflammatory pathology that can appear either in one eye or both. It mainly affects teenagers.

These changes in corneal morphology keep the rays from bouncing correctly. It disturbs and distorts vision as a consequence. In addition, a person may develop both myopia and astigmatism:

  • Myopia is a defect that blurs distant objects
  • Astigmatism is when your eye perceives objects as blurry or distorted, both close and at a distance

What other symptoms may appear with keratoconus?

Many people with this condition also have an extreme sensitivity to light. Similarly, they’re forced to change their eyewear prescription frequently. Symptoms usually vary over time.

Redness and great discomfort when wearing contact lenses are other common symptoms. Normally, the disease takes a long time to progress, so the latter symptom is more unlikely.

However, there are cases in which keratoconus may become much more serious. The eyes can worsen suddenly and the cornea begins to experience the process of fibrosis or scarring. When this happens, the cornea becomes less transparent and the vision worsens even further.

A closeup of an eye.

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What are the causes?

We still don’t know what exactly causes the appearance of keratoconus. However, scientists think that there are many factors involved in its development.

Firstly, it seems that genetics plays an important role because many of the people who have it also have a family history of it. It also has to do with Down and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes.

Similarly, factors such as minor eye trauma, persistent scratching, and eye irritation appear to be related also, as well as continuous exposure to the sun’s rays.

How do doctors diagnose and treat keratoconus?

A keratoconus diagnosis is relatively simple. Normally, it’s enough for an ophthalmologist to perform a complete eye exam. In addition, they can do other tests to observe a given pathology in more detail.

For example, they may use scaling lamp scans, corneal topographies and do a keratometry, which allows them to measure the curvature of the cornea.

The treatment of keratoconus varies according to the case. The ophthalmologist alone must choose which method is the most appropriate for each patient. They can treat many mild cases with contact lenses. However, more complex cases may require a corneal transplant.

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In short

Keratoconus is a progressive disease that deteriorates the cornea and keeps it from properly focusing light rays. Thus, vision blurs, usually affecting young people. When in doubt, the best course of action is to consult an ophthalmologist for a full examination.

  • Diagnóstico del queratocono – American Academy of Ophthalmology. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2019, from https://www.aao.org/salud-ocular/enfermedades/queratocono-diagnostico
  • Queratocono: Causas, Tratamiento y Operación – Oftalvist. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2019, from https://www.oftalvist.es/es/especialidades/queratocono
  • Tratamientos del queratocono, sus causas y síntomas | All About Vision. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2019, from https://www.allaboutvision.com/es/condiciones/queratocono.htm