Keratoconus is a condition that affects the cornea, which is the front surface of the eye. The cornea is normally shaped like a curve, but in Keratoconus it progressively thins and bulges to form a cone-like shape. This is because these patients have a higher number of enzymes that cause the break down of bonds formed between the collagen molecules. The cause of keratoconus remains largely unknown, and we typically see that symptoms begin in adolescence. It is thought that there is some degree of contribution from genes as well as the environment.
The shape of the cornea is important in bending and focusing light rays onto the retina (back of the eye) so we can see clearly. As the shape changes in keratoconus, vision may blur and become distorted with streaking, halos, multiple images, or sensitivity to light. It can affect your ability to perform regular activities such as driving or reading.
When you come to see the ophthalmologist, your eye will be examined through a slit-lamp microscope. If you do have keratoconus, additional tests may be performed such as corneal topography.
Treatment involves trying to correct the vision disturbances, and also slowing the changes that are happening in the cornea. Patients are advised to avoid rubbing their eyes. Glasses and soft contact lenses are used initially, and eventually patients progress to rigid or more specialized contact lenses. Surgical options that may be considered include Intrastromal Corneal Ring Segments , Corneal Collagen Cross-Linking, and Corneal Transplant Surgery. Visit Corneal Surgery for more information.
Here is a video that presents an overview of keratoconus. You may change the audio and subtitles to the language of your choice by hovering over the bottom right of the video and clicking on the “CC” icon.