Keratoconus is an eye condition in which the round, oval cornea becomes thin over time and develops a cone-like bulge, resulting in severe vision loss. For many patients keratoconus ultimately necessitates corneal transplantation.
Keratoconus and post-refractive corneal ectasia are the second most frequent indications for corneal transplantation, accounting for about 15% of the corneal transplants performed in the United States. Corneal transplantation has inherent risks that could result in permanent loss of vision and significantly impact the patient’s quality of life during the surgical recovery phase, with lost work time and often permanent changes in lifestyle. Any modality, such as corneal collagen cross-linking, that can delay or prevent corneal transplantation in patients with these conditions is of great benefit.
Keratoconus affects both eyes of an individual, however symptoms will vary from patient to patient. The cause of keratoconus is not known. Some researchers believe that genetics play a role, since an estimated 10% of people with keratoconus also have a family member with the condition.
Keratoconus is a progressive disease that can have subtle symptoms at first, such as contact lenses falling out frequently or gradually changing eyeglass prescriptions. Although corrective lenses can ameliorate early symptoms, keratoconus will, for some patients, leave them legally blind (vision worse than 20/200) without intervention. Corneal transplant and DSEK are two primary treatments.
Frequently Asked Questions about Keratoconus
Q: Does keratoconus usually affect both eyes?
A Yes. Although the onset of the disease isn’t always simultaneous, approximately 90% of keratoconus patients have the disease in both eyes.
Q: How common is keratoconus?
A Research suggests an occurrence rate of approximately 1 in 2000.
Q: Will keratoconus make me go blind?
A Very few people go completely blind from keratoconus.
Q: Is there a noninvasive method of treating this disease?
A The FDA has not yet approved corneal collagen cross-linking, but is still studying this technique that is already approved in most of Europe.
Self Evaluation Test
- Do you notice a flaring distortion around light sources?
- Do you have to squint in order to read?
- Are you sensitive to light?
- Does your eye itch frequently?
- Do contact lenses sometimes fall out of your eyes?
- Do you see ‘ghost’ images, i.e. multiple images of something spread in a random pattern?
If you answered yes to these questions, particularly the last two, then you should have an evaluation with an ophthalmologist to assess your eye health needs.