A typical person may not think too much about the many issues that can affect eye health, especially if they have never had eye or vision problems. Consequently, Keratoconus is a condition that is not well known and it is more common than you might think.
What is Keratoconus?
Most people know what the cornea is, and that it is normally a gently curved surface providing a window for light to enter the eye’s structures. In cases of Keratoconus, instead of a gradually curving shape, the cornea resembles a cone. If you are looking at the affected eye of a Keratoconus patient, the cone shape is often very obvious. The condition is fairly common (1 in 500-2000 people have it) and is not isolated to one area or ethnic background, though it may be more prevalent in individuals of South Asian descent. Also often found in patients with Downs Syndrome, there is no specific known cause.
Symptoms of Keratoconus
This eye health anomaly causes the patient’s vision to be distorted; furthermore, they may have issues with sensitivity to light and streaks in the field of vision. Over time, Keratoconus can become progressively worse and has historically resulted in the need for surgery once it has advanced too far. Patients with the condition are often limited in their ability to drive or operate machinery, especially in low light conditions due to poor vision quality.
Historically, patients with Keratoconus would have to undergo a cornea transplant from a donor.The procedure is very costly and extensive. If the disease is caught in the early stages, an eye health professional may now be able to treat it using a specially designed contact lens. Another option is a method called cross-linking. The cornea contains strands of collagen, and in cross-linking, a solution containing riboflavin is applied to the eye then exposed to a UV-A light source. The result is that the cornea is strengthened and better able to hold the correct shape. Other surgical procedures that have shown success are inserts that bolster the cornea’s stability, and Radial Keratotomy (RK) refractive surgery.
Depending upon how severe your case of Keratoconus is when diagnosed will dictate a course of treatment. As with most eye health issues, early diagnosis can save you pain and vision loss. See your eye doctor yearly to keep your sight crisp and clear for a lifetime.