Keratoconus is an eye disease where the cornea (the clear, outer layer at the front of your eye) thins and bulges into an irregular cone shape. The shape of the cornea determines how light is directed into the eye, so as the shape of the cornea changes due to keratoconus, it causes nearsightedness, irregular astigmatism, and vision loss. This condition generally begins at puberty and progresses into adulthood. Both eyes are typically affected; however, the severity varies from one eye to another.
Is Keratoconus Hereditary?
Researchers say yes and no. They believe that some people may have a genetic predisposition at birth to develop the disease; however, certain environmental and behavioral factors also play a role and keratoconus can occur in individuals with no family history of the disorder. (There is now a cheek swab that can test for genetic potential for developing keratoconus.)
What Causes Keratoconus?
The cause of keratoconus is not completely known. Keratoconus is commonly associated with the loss of collagen in the cornea, which may be caused by some imbalance between production and destruction of the corneal tissue by the corneal cells.
How is Keratoconus Diagnosed?
Visiting the Metro-Detroit keratoconus specialists at Normandy Optical for regular checkups can help with early diagnosis. To diagnose keratoconus, our eye doctors will examine your cornea and measure its curve. This helps detect any change in its shape.
Keratoconus exhibits diverse effects as it affects both eyes. The magnitude of its effects varies as the eye disease progresses.
In the early stage of keratoconus, symptoms can include:
Redness of the eyes or swelling
Excessive eye rubbing
Mild blurring of vision
Slightly distorted vision, where straight lines look bent or wavy
Increased sensitivity to light and glare
In later stage, keratoconus symptoms can include:
Intense blurriness and distorted visual
Intense astigmatism and nearsightedness
Frequent changes in eyeglass prescription
Vision that cannot be corrected with glasses
Contact lenses may no longer fit properly or are uncomfortable
In worse cases, the eye might bulge severely to cause a scar
Keratoconus Treatment Options
Glasses or Soft Contact Lenses In the early stages of keratoconus, glasses or soft contact lenses can aid and provide excellent vision.
Corneal Cross-linking Corneal cross-linking (CXL), also referred to as collagen cross-linking, is a minimally invasive, advanced therapy for keratoconus. This highly successful procedure has been in practice since 2016 after thorough clinical trials were completed and being approved by the FDA. The procedure, which generally takes about an hour, uses ultraviolet light and eye drops. It can slow down or stop the progression of keratoconus by strengthening the collagen fibers in the cornea, allowing it to become stiffer and usually stop bulging out.
For the corneal cross-linking procedure, eye drops will be administered to numb the eye and you will be given a mild sedative. You will lie back and look up at a soft blue light (ultraviolet light) during the treatment. The epithelium (a thin layer of clear, protective tissue that covers the cornea) is removed and vitamin B2 eye drops are administered in the eye while you look at an ultraviolet light. The corneal cross-linking procedure may prevent a patient from requiring the more invasive corneal transplant procedure and is now covered by many insurance companies.
Corneal Transplant For advanced stages of the disease, a corneal transplant may be performed to restore vision. The outpatient procedure usually takes about an hour and involves the cornea of the patient being removed and replaced with a donor cornea (from someone recently deceased with permission of their next of kin). The donor cornea is sewn into place with stitches that are about a third of the width of a human hair.
Specialized Contact Lenses Specialized contact lenses may be a treatment when the disease progresses to where the corneal cone protrudes more and glasses or soft contact lenses no longer provide sufficient vision correction. Specialized contact lens options include gas permeable lenses, hybrid lenses, and scleral lenses.
What Happens If Keratoconus Is Not Treated?
The vision issues associated with keratoconus are often overlooked and thought of as normal vision problems; however, without treatment, vision can be significantly affected and the bulge in the cornea may worsen.
Contact Our Metro-Detroit Keratoconus Specialists to Schedule an Appointment
If you are experiencing symptoms of keratoconus such as eye redness, swelling, blurry or distorted vision, Normandy Optical’s corneal specialists are here for you. Our Metro-Detroit eye doctors can evaluate your eyes, diagnose your condition, and provide high-quality keratoconus treatment. Contact us today!