Keratoconus: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
What Is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus occurs when the cornea (the transparent layer at the front of the eye) becomes distorted, bulging outward and changing from its normal spherical shape to more of a cone shape.
What causes Keratoconus?
There are many causes of keratoconus. Two of the most common causes of this condition include genetic predisposition, so it is common for multiple family members to be affected, and overexposure to UV light.
Keratoconus affects your vision because the collagen (bits of protein in the form of fibres) that hold the cornea in place become weak, resulting in the cornea changing shape as its structure is no longer strong enough to maintain its spherical form.
A decrease of antioxidants in the cornea can worsen this problem; the usual role of these antioxidants is to guard the collagen fibres, protect against cellular damage and maintain eye health, but if antioxidant levels are low, the collagen isn’t protected and becomes weak.
What Are The Symptoms Of Keratoconus?
There are several keratoconus symptoms you can look out for, including:
- Blurred vision or double vision (especially when it’s just in one eye)
- Distortion of objects in your vision (both near and far), including double or triple ‘ghost images’
- Halos (bright circles that appear around a source of light), glare or streaking lights
- Eye swelling
- Eye redness or soreness
- Light sensitivity
- The inability to wear contact lenses
If you find yourself experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it could mean you have keratoconus.
How Do You Detect Keratoconus?
Keratoconus often runs in families: approximately one out of 10 keratoconus sufferers will have a biological parent with keratoconus. Therefore, if either of your parents have it, you might be a likely candidate to have the condition.
Therefore it is a good idea to mention the occurrence of keratoconus in your family to your optometrist, who will then be able to look for specific signs and symptoms of keratoconus. Similarly, if you suffer from keratoconus and have children of your own, you should get your children’s eyes checked regularly, as early as the age of 10.
How Can You Treat Keratoconus?
Fortunately, there are many keratoconus treatment options available, with the severity of the treatment depending on how serious the condition is. If you only have mild keratoconus, for instance, prescription glasses may be all you need in order to correct your vision. It is also worth noting that if you think you have keratoconus, you should avoid rubbing your eyes, as constant rubbing can further damage the tissue of the cornea.
In severe cases, when prescription glasses aren’t able to correct the problem, sufferers of keratoconus can undergo a cornea transplant. This is a surgical procedure requiring all or part of the cornea to be replaced with cornea tissue from a donor, but for most people with keratoconus, this won’t be necessary.
As with any vision problem, the first step to take if you think you have keratoconus is to visit your optometrist. They will be able to diagnose the problem and recommend the correct treatment for you.
Experiencing one or more symptoms?
Visit your nearest optometrist for advice and recommendations