Keratoconus is a non-inflammatory degenerative condition affecting the cornea, which is the transparent window of the eye. In Keratoconus, the typical shape of the cornea progressively becomes thinner, bulges forwards and becomes more cone-like. This cone shape results in poor focusing and blurred vision. Keratoconus is a gradually worsening disease, causing worsening of poor vision.
Keratoconus is often diagnosed in young people at puberty, in their late teens or early twenties by their optometrist, when their astigmatism increases and vision blurs. At this early stage contact lenses are usually worn, but treatment to stabilise the vision and stabilise the progression of the Keratoconus with corneal cross linking (CXL) should be considered, so as to prevent progression, subsequent corneal scarring and risk of corneal grafting.
Who gets Keratoconus?
Teenagers and young adults get Keratoconus. Depending on ethnicity, Keratoconus affects up to one in 450 people. It is more common in non-caucasians.
Risk factors which worsen Keratoconus include:
- Eye rubbing
- Allergic eye disease
- Some genetic diseases such as Downs Syndrome
What causes Keratoconus?
The exact cause of Keratoconus is unknown. Although it is not considered an inherited disease, many believe that genetics do indeed play a role as well as other environmental factors. The condition affects the collagen fibres arrangement in the clear cornea.
What the patient notices with Keratoconus
Keratoconus progressively affects vision by causing a blur from conical progression of the disease, with worsening vision occurring in both eyes. Early stages of Keratoconus are usually detectable by your local optometrist even though vision may seemingly be unaffected at that stage.
If allowed to advance, corneal thinning will progress and eventual scarring can occur, which stops the eyes from focusing correctly. Even in advanced Keratoconus it is usually possible to correct vision with contact lenses, but if scarring has occurred, a corneal graft is required.
Is Keratoconus treatable?
The best treatment is to arrest progression of the Keratoconus by stabilising the corneal collagen fibres with corneal cross linking (CXL).