Keratoconus is an eye condition which is characterized by a bulging of the cornea, results in significant visual impairment for those affected. While the exact causes of keratoconus are still relatively unknown, researchers have made great technological advances in its treatment.
What causes Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is a type of eye condition that results when the cornea, or outer lens of the eye, loses its dome-like shape.
In people with keratoconus, the cornea becomes generally thinned due to a weakening of protective fibers in the cornea.
This weakening in the corneal fibers causes the cornea to lose its normal shape, and it begins to take on a cone-like, bulging form.
The exact cause of corneal thinning is still not known. Keratoconus tends to be genetic, but it may also be caused by excessive eye-rubbing due to allergies or other environmental factors.
The condition normally appears during adolescence or the early twenties, but it also may occur later in life.
What are the symptoms of Keratoconus?
Keratoconus may cause significant vision problems in those affected. The shape of the cornea is essential to proper vision, and as the cornea loses collagen and thins, the vision may become distorted in a variety of ways.
The symptoms of keratoconus may come on suddenly or over a period of several years. The first symptoms are normally blurred vision that cannot be corrected with eye glasses or contact lenses. As the condition develops, more significant vision problems may include:
- Heightened sensitivity to glare, especially when driving at night
- Streaking of lights
- Halos and “ghosting” around lights at night
- Eye irritation or pain
- Headaches and eye strain
How is Keratoconus treated?
Until very recently, the only treatments available for keratoconus were Intacs, or plastic corneal inserts, and specialty contact lenses. While these methods can be effective in the early stages of keratoconus, they are unable to correct the significant visual impairment that occurs in more developed keratoconus cases.
Fortunately, a new treatment method, called corneal crosslinking, has recently been developed that has changed the lives of many patients with keratoconus. This new technology is simple, minimally-invasive, and can be performed in an office setting.
Corneal crosslinking works by increasing the number of collagen crosslinks, or protective fibers, within the cornea. By limiting the deterioration of the cornea, corneal crosslinking works to halt the progression of keratoconus.