We see through the cornea, which is the clear, central part of the front surface of the eye. Normally, the cornea has a round shape, like a ball. Sometimes, however, the structure of the cornea is just not strong enough to hold this round shape. The normal pressure inside the eye makes the cornea bulge outward like a cone. This condition is called keratoconus.
What causes Keratoconus?
Often the cause of keratoconus is unknown. Some studies have found that keratoconus runs in families, and that it happens more often in people with certain medical conditions. But most often, there is no eye injury or disease that could explain why the eye starts to change.
Keratoconus usually begins in the teenage years, but it can also start in childhood or up to about age 30. The changes in the shape of the cornea occur slowly, usually over several years.
Someone with keratoconus will notice that vision slowly becomes distorted. The change can stop at any time, or it can continue for several years. In most people who have keratoconus, both eyes are eventually affected.
Can Keratoconus damage vision?
Keratoconus does not make people go blind. However, the changes to the cornea will make it impossible for the eye to focus without eyeglasses or contact lenses and refractive surgery is very dangerous for patients with keratoconus.
How is Keratoconus diagnosed?
Your doctors at Eyecare Associates of Lee’s Summit may notice some things during the examination, or the patient may mention symptoms, that could be caused by keratoconus. These include:
These things might be related to keratoconus, but your doctor must measure the curvature of the cornea to be certain. Several different instruments can be used to measure the curvature of the cornea.
One instrument, called a keratometer, shines a pattern of light onto the cornea and measures the shape of the eye at four different places. The shape of the reflection of the pattern tells the doctor how the eye is curved.
There are also computerized instruments that make three-dimensional “maps” of the cornea, a process called corneal topography. Eyecare Associates of Lee’s Summit is one of only three offices in the Kansas City area that has a Medmont Topographer. This very sophisticated instrument was developed in New Zealand where there is a high rate of keratoconus in the population. The Medmont topographer takes 50,000 measurements of the cornea and builds a three dimensional topography of great accuracy. This precise instrument helps us determine what type of keratoconus a patient has as well as helps determine the best way to treat the keratoconus.
How is Keratoconus treated?
Only a doctor experienced in treating eye problems can recommend the right treatment for someone with keratoconus. Treatment usually starts with new eyeglasses, and then contact lenses are recommended. These will correct the vision problems caused by keratoconus.
Keratoconus changes vision in two ways:
New eyeglasses can usually make vision clear again in mild cases of keratoconus. Eventually, though, it will probably be necessary to use contact lenses. Rigid contact lenses are used most frequently in keratoconus patients. Eyecare Associates of Lee’s Summit uses many types of contact to treat keratoconus. We are one of the few offices in the country that uses scleral lens designs such as the Boston scleral lens to treat severe keratoconus. Learn about scleral lenses.
Will surgery correct Keratoconus?
For most people with keratoconus, the only treatment needed is the correct prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. A small number of cases of keratoconus keep getting worse, however, and, eventually, contact lenses cannot give clear vision. In other cases, the keratoconus or the use of contact lenses over the years will have side effects. These side effects can make the cornea cloudy. When these things happen, corneal transplantation might be recommended.
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