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Understanding Keratoconus

Keratoconus is a progressive condition which could limit vision and suddenly make everyday tasks difficult. Understanding the causes and symptoms of keratoconus could help you identify the condition yourself, and know when it’s time to seek help.

What is Keratoconus

Keratoconus is a condition affecting the shape of the cornea, which should be perfectly round. As keratoconus progresses, the cornea becomes more and more of a cone shape. This shape causes vision to become distorted and blurry, making activities such as reading and driving more difficult.

Symptoms of Keratoconus

Patients suffering from keratoconus often experience light sensitivity, eye pain, and headaches. In addition to blurred and distorted vision, it’s not uncommon to notice excessive glare or halos around lights as well as ghost images or double vision. Keratoconus patients also experience higher levels of eye strain.

Although keratoconus can begin at any time, it frequently starts to appear in late adolescence or early adulthood.

What Causes Keratoconus?

There is no concrete cause of keratoconus as of yet. There appears to be a genetic component in many cases, however, others show no component of heredity. Some evidence suggests that this condition can be caused by excessive eye rubbing or other minor trauma. There are members of the medical community who believe that allergies can contribute to this disease, as allergic reactions prompt the patient to rub their eye more frequently. Some scientists theorize that ill-fitting contacts lenses can result in keratoconus.

Treating Keratoconus

Although keratoconus does tend to get worse with time, it can be corrected, managed or delayed with the proper treatment.

Contact Lenses

There are a number of contact lenses or combinations of contact lenses available to correct vision problems associated with keratoconus. Custom soft contact lenses can be made specifically to accommodate the patient’s eyes and correct up to moderate cases of keratoconus. Gas permeable lenses are also an option, however, some patients find custom soft contacts to be more effective and more comfortable. Both gas permeable lenses and soft custom contacts lenses are larger, covering more surface area and providing more stability to the wearer.

Sometimes, optometrists will recommend “piggybacking” lenses to avoid discomfort. This involves wearing one soft contact lens, then wearing a rigid gas permeable lens on top. Piggybacking adds a level of comfort while still providing adequate vision correction.

Surgical Solutions

Some patients opt for intacs; a surgical implant under the cornea meant to help correct its shape. Intacs are removable and interchangeable if necessary. Even with intacs, keratoconus can continue to progress. If it does, doctors will most likely recommend a corneal transplant. Although corneal transplants do remedy the shape issue, and therefore correct keratoconus, patients still typically require some level of correction after surgery.