Diagnosing and Treating Keratoconus

Diagnosing and Treating Keratoconus

Diagnosing and Treating Keratoconus

Around one in every 2000 people in the United States suffer from an eye condition called keratoconus. Unlike other eye conditions that cause blurred vision, keratoconus isn’t well known. However, this progressive condition can quickly start to affect your vision so significantly that it has an impact on your quality of life. Here’s what you need to know about keratoconus, including how it is diagnosed and treated.


What is keratoconus? 

Keratoconus is a progressive eye condition that occurs when the cornea, which is usually a fairly even dome shape, starts to thin out. When this happens, the structure of the cornea weakens, causing it to bulge outwards into more of a cone shape. Unsurprisingly, this changes the way in which light passes through the eye, meaning that the patient’s vision appears blurred. The more the cornea bulges, the worse their vision is likely to be. 


What causes keratoconus?

Keratoconus is a tricky eye condition, but it’s not always clear why some people develop it and other people don’t. Nevertheless, there are a number of factors that eye doctors believe could make it more likely. These include:


  • Oxidative stress, which happens when your eyes are unprotected and exposed to UV light, pollution, and other free radicals. 

  • Suffering from eye allergies.

  • Rubbing your eyes frequently (which can happen if you have eye allergies).

Studies have also shown that keratoconus is more likely to affect people of non-caucasian origin. 


What are the symptoms of keratoconus and how is it diagnosed?

There are a few different symptoms associated with keratoconus. These include:


  • Slightly blurry vision

  • Distortions in your vision, such as straight lines appearing wavy or bent

  • Redness of the eyes

  • Swelling around the eyes

  • Increased sensitivity to light

  • Experiencing glare from lights at night

  • Contact lenses feel uncomfortable or unstable


If you experience any of these symptoms it is important that you make an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible so that your eyes can be assessed. 


Fortunately, keratoconus can usually be diagnosed using a routine eye exam. Your eye doctor will use special equipment to look at the shape of your cornea and measure its curvature. Sometimes this is done using something called topography, which is where technology is used to create a 3d map of the surface of the eyes. This will not only help your eye doctor to diagnose keratoconus, but also to plan your treatment.


Treatment for keratoconus

If you are diagnosed with keratoconus, your eye doctor will talk to you about the different treatments that are available. One of the first lines of treatment that may be recommended to you may be scleral contact lenses.

Scleral contact lenses are a form of specialty contact lens that is designed specifically for patients with corneal abnormalities. They differ from conventional contact lenses in that they are significantly larger, making them more stable on the eye. They are also shaped so that they vault over the surface of the cornea, leaving a clear space between the back of the lens and the surface of the eye which can accommodate the bulge that characterizes keratoconus. Your eye doctor will be able to recommend the most suitable scleral contact lens for you. 


Intacs are another potential treatment for keratoconus. They too are similar in design to contact lenses, but these small, curved devices are surgically implanted into the cornea to help flatten it and improve your vision. 


In some cases, patients may be recommended to undergo a procedure called corneal cross-linking. This is a special procedure during which a combination of eye drops and UV light is used to strengthen the individual fibers in your cornea to prevent them from bulging outwards. Corneal cross-linking is considered fairly successful.


Finally, if all other treatment options prove unsuccessful, you may be advised to have a surgical corneal transplant, which is where your natural cornea is removed and replaced with healthy corneal tissue from a donor. This technique is usually a very last resort. 



If you are concerned about keratoconus and have further questions, or to schedule an appointment to discuss the condition, please visit West Texas Eyecare in Pecos or Fort Stockton, TX. Call 432-336-3662 or 432-445-3662.

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