Keratoconus: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Gemma Gough

Published on July 5, 2021, 10:03 am

Keratoconus: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

How often do you think of your eye health? Let me guess - when you realise you have to squint to watch TV or your eyes start to hurt like crazy for no reason whatsoever.

I may be sounding like your mom here but you should take special care of your eye health. There are so many eye diseases out there that you probably have never even heard of.

When I was a kid, crying tears of blood sounded a lot like fiction and then later I came to know that it happens for real due to a rare eye condition called Haemolacria. But I am not here to talk about Haemolacria today. I want to bring your attention to an equally unknown eye disease known as keratoconus.

If you are someone in your early 20s, you should know about this problem as keratoconus is mostly diagnosed during teens or early twenties.

What is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus happens when the cornea (the dome-shaped layer at front of the eye) starts to thin out and bulge outwards. It takes the shape of a cone and causes blurred vision. In most cases, this disease is also capable of triggering light sensitivity among people.

This disease generally develops in both eyes but one eye is affected more than the other. The problem begins to surface between 10 and 25 years of age and keeps progressing for the next 10 years or maybe more.

In the early stages, this disease may get treated with the use of prescription glasses. But if it reaches an advanced stage, the patient will need a corneal transplant.

Keratoconus Symptoms

As this causes the irregular shape of the cornea, it could lead to refractive errors such as progressive nearsightedness or astigmatism.

When the cornea bulges outward taking the shape of a cone, it may cause irregular astigmatism. And since the front part expands, your eyes become more nearsighted. You won’t have any problem seeing things up close. But anything at distance will appear blurry.

Keratoconus symptoms may change as the disease progresses. But they generally include:

  • Double vision when you look with one eye open
  • Increased sensitivity to bright lights and glare. This could lead to troubles with night driving
  • Both near and distant vision becomes blurry due to astigmatism
  • Seeing halos around bright lights
  • Distorted vision
  • If you wear prescription glasses, your prescription will change frequently

Your eye doctor may spot more signs and symptoms with a comprehensive eye test. Even if you don’t have any vision-related problems, weird things can pop out of the blue. Thus, annual eye exams are important to steer clear of eye problems.

We offer free eye test in UK with our qualified optometrists in our stores. Book an appointment online or visit our stores for annual eye exams. If you feel changes in your eyesight, don’t wait a year and get an eye exam immediately.

What Causes Keratoconus?

If someone in your family has this disease, you are more likely to get it as well. If you are a parent with this eye disorder, get your child’s eye checked every year, especially when they are a teenager.

Inflammation of the eye from allergies or asthma may also have something to do with this problem. In certain clinical studies, doctors have found a possible connection between keratoconus and such as retinitis pigmentosa and down syndrome.

Research suggests that keratoconus occurs due to the weakening of corneal tissue. Any sort of imbalance of the enzymes in the cornea makes it more vulnerable to free radicals or oxidative damage and thereby causing it to change shape.

Exposure to UV rays from the sun also triggers oxidative stress in the eye and may have a role to play in the development of keratoconus. Sunglasses or tinted glasses protect your eyes from UV-related damage. So, use eye protection when you are out in the sun.

Rubbing your eyes too hard can also trigger keratoconus over time. It may also worsen the condition if you already have this disease.

Keratoconus Treatment

If your disease is mild, then your doctor may ask you to use prescription glasses. They will bend the light rays on your retina and give you clear vision.

However, if the keratoconus is more advanced and progressive, your doctor may use other treatment methods such as corneal cross-linking. In this procedure, your corneal tissue will be strengthened to stop the bulging of the cornea. If you’ve had Lasik or any vision correction surgery in the past, then corneal crosslinking is the best method for you.

However, if you have a severe case of keratoconus, the final option for you is a corneal transplant. You don’t have to fret as this operation works in more than 90% of cases. After the operation, your vision may take several months to stabilise. Your doctor will suggest you wear eyeglasses until your cornea heals completely.

Even if the cases of corneal transplant are highly successful, there is always a slight possibility of eye infection or the recipient's immune system rejecting the donated graft post-operation. For this reason, a corneal transplant is generally considered the last resort to treat keratoconus.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Keratoconus

1. Does keratoconus affect vision?

Any change in the shape of the cornea does not allow light to focus properly on the retina. Thus, you will face issues in your vision. But, any form of refractive error arising from keratoconus can be corrected with prescription glasses.

2. Is keratoconus a serious condition

Any disease that affects your eyes and reduces your visual acuity is considered a serious problem. Successful management of eye problems requires regular eye exams.

3. Is keratoconus a disability

No, keratoconus is an eye disorder. But the vision impairment resulting from keratoconus is regarded as a disability.

4. Can Lasik fix keratoconus?

Lasik is dangerous for treating keratoconus. It can weaken your cornea and make the condition even worse.

5. Can Keratoconus go away on its own?

Keratoconus won’t disappear on its own. However, certain medications and surgical procedures can halt the bulging of the cornea. It will prevent your vision from declining further.

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