Keratoconus is a condition that occurs when the cornea of the eye, the clear dome shaped outer surface, becomes thin and develops into a cone shape. This alteration in the cornea causes vision to become blurred.
Usually, Keratoconus affects both eyes. This generally affects people between the ages of 10 to 25. The condition usually progresses slowly, over a period of 10 or more years.
Symptoms of keratoconus can change as the disease progresses through its stages.
While keratoconus is relatively uncommon, it is not considered rare, and despite this, the causes are generally unknown. It is suspected that there is a genetic component given that one in ten people who have keratoconus have a parent with it. Additionally, allergies may play a role in the development of keratoconus, though this has not definitely been proven. It has also been noted that other eye conditions have occurred concurrently with keratoconus. However, there is no definitive link between having other ocular conditions and developing keratoconus. Other risk factors have been implicated as well, including retinitis pigmentosa, mitral valve prolapse, Down’s syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome, vernal keratoconjunctivitis, Leber congenital amaurosis, and asthma. Additionally, vigorous eye rubbing and hard contact lens wear can create continued trauma to the eye that can damage the cornea and lead to keratoconus.
It its early stages, keratoconus can be corrected with soft contact lenses, or with glasses. Over time, hard contact lenses may be necessary to correct vision. If the condition does progress to an advanced stage, a cornea replacement may be necessary.
Treatment will depend on the severity of your particular condition and how rapidly it is progressing. For example, mild to moderate keratoconus may stabilize after a few years. This can be treated with contact lenses or eye glasses.
For those with severe keratoconus, the cornea becomes scarred. Others, it eventually becomes difficult to wear contact lenses. For these people, surgery may become necessary.
Given the largely idiopathic nature of keratoconus, it is difficult to take steps for prevention. However, with the suspected risk factors for the development of keratoconus, some factors may be mitigated with proper eye care. Proper care and treatment of allergies affecting the eyes may be beneficial in the prevention of keratococnus. Additionally, avoiding rubbing your eyes, especially if there is potentially a foreign body in the eye, is helpful in preventing damaging eye irritation. Proper contact lens care may also be an effective method for preventing eye irritation that leads to keratoconus. In the cases of keratoconus mediated by chronic conditions such as asthma or congenital conditions, proper monitoring could serve as an essential component in the prevention of keratoconus. Given the unknown drivers of keratoconus, there may be additional strategies to prevent its development, however currently simply monitoring in cases of congenital risk factors and early treatment are the best methods for prevention of keratoconus and its complications.