Typically presenting in adolescence, keratoconus is a disease of the cornea; that is, the transparent, outermost layer of the front of your eye. Keratoconus is a non-inflammatory eye condition where the typically round, dome-shaped cornea progressively thins and weakens causing a cone-like bulging of the cornea. Keratoconus leads to changes in the thickness and shape of your cornea, eventually inhibiting your vision if left untreated.
Signs and symptoms of Keratoconus include:
You may be at higher risk of developing keratoconus if you have a family history of the disease; you rub your eyes hard and often; or you have an underlying medical condition like asthma, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, retinitis pigmentosa, Down syndrome, or hay fever. Knowing your family’s medical history can improve your awareness, and subsequently, your odds of early detection. Those at risk of developing keratoconus should see their eye doctor for exams every six to twelve months depending on their provider’s recommendations.
Diagnosis may involve corneal topography, an imaging test that records the shape of your cornea.
Treatment depends on two primary factors: the rate at which the disease is progressing and the severity of the current condition.
Most patients will need corrective lenses in the form of glasses, contacts, or scleral lenses. These function to correct your vision.
For those whose condition continues to progress, corneal cross-linking is often recommended. Corneal cross-linking is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that combines specialty formulated eye drops and UV light to stiffen and strengthen the corneas. This treatment can help prevent the need for a corneal transplant someday.
In the most severe cases, a corneal transplant is necessary and generally successful.