Keratoconus is an asymmetric, bilateral disease that causes the cornea to become increasingly thin and steep. Instead of being curved consistently, the cornea distorts into a cone shape. This distorts the patient’s vision and, because of the irregular shape, it may not be correctable with eyeglasses.
Keratoconus is progressive, usually beginning during teenage years or early twenties. One eye or both may be affected.
What Are The Symptoms Of Keratoconus?
Symptoms of keratoconus become apparent as the irregularity of the cornea increases. The patient may become progressively more nearsighted, or will notice more (and irregular) astigmatism. This distorts vision and may cause it to become blurred. Eyeglass prescriptions may change often, requiring more strength.
Patients may also notice that they become more sensitive to light and glare.
What Causes Keratoconus?
There is evidence that keratoconus may be hereditary, because it often affects more than one member of a family. Keratoconus may also be linked to overexposure to UV light from the sun and from chronic eye irritation, such as bad contact lenses, excessive rubbing of the eyes, or other irritants.
What Are The Treatments For Keratoconus?
There are several treatment options for keratoconus. These include:
- Scleral contact lenses
- Collagen cross-linking
- Corneal transplants
Scleral contact lenses are larger than conventional contact lenses, which only cover part of the cornea. They are gas permeable and big enough so that the edges rest on the “white” (sclera) of the eye. The lenses are able to vault over the cone-shaped area and correct the irregular astigmatism, leading to drastic improvement in vision quality.
Another treatment for keratoconus is to strengthen the corneal tissue to stop the bulging. This is called collagen cross-linking, and it involves strengthening the collagen fibers in the corneal tissue through a chemical reaction.
Collagen cross-linking involves removing the outer later of the cornea, the epithelium, and systematically applying riboflavin, a B vitamin. The riboflavin is then activated with ultraviolet light to stimulate the collagen crosslinking reaction.
Although a relatively new technology, collagen cross-linking promises to reduce the need for many keratoconus patients to have corneal transplants.
If other treatment methods fail, then the next option for correcting keratoconus is a corneal transplant. This requires a donor, and there are eye banks that specialize in providing corneas for transplantation. The transplant is a significant surgical procedure, and it may take several months for the patient’s vision to stabilize afterward. However, most patients can have clear vision afterward with eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Like any surgical procedure there are risks such as infection, or rejection of the transplanted tissue. The cornea specialists at Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun thoroughly evaluate each patient and recommend a carefully planned treatment regimen customized to each patient. Our offices in Knoxville, Farragut, Hardin Valley, Maryville, Fountain City, Oak Ridge, and Sevierville are ready to help should you suspect you or a family member may have keratoconus.
For an appointment, call (865) 584-0905.