What is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus refers to a progressive eye condition in which the front part of your eye changes shape and appears like a cone. In this condition, your eye’s cornea starts to thin and develops a bulge, resembling a cone shape rather than the usual round shape. This causes distortion in the way your eye refracts light to the retina and causes distortions in image projection.
According to the estimates by Global Keratoconus Foundation, the prevalence of keratoconus ranges between 50 and 230 in every 100,000 people. Contrary to this, the prevalence of nearsightedness is almost 30% in the US population.
The initial symptoms of keratoconus are blurry vision which may develop even after you regularly visit an eye doctor for checkups. A patient suffering from keratoconus experiences progressive nearsightedness which often causes changes in the eye prescription on every visit.
Accompanied with it the patient may also experience:
- Light sensitivity
- Strain in the eyes or generalized pain
- Glare issues and driving problems at night
- Irritation in eyes
These symptoms also accompany different eye conditions, which make it necessary for patients to see an eye specialist. The doctor will make the diagnosis using specialized tools, like slit-lamps.
Keratoconus Treatment Options
The treatment choice depends on the severity of keratoconus. The following treatment options are available:
- Eyeglasses: If the disease is in the early stage, the doctor may suggest just a change in the number of prescription eyeglasses. After that, the ophthalmologist continues to monitor your eyesight carefully to prevent any further deterioration.
- Customized contact lenses (soft): There are some soft contact lens brands available that are customized according to the measurements of the patient. These are manufactured specifically to deal with mild to moderate keratoconus.
- Hard contact lenses: Rigid and gas permeable contact lenses keep the cornea’s shape in place. This enables correct retraction of light by the cornea. However, they are hard to fit your eyes and feel more uncomfortable as compared to soft contact lenses.
- Piggybacking eye contact lenses: In this treatment, both soft and rigid contact lenses are used which helps retain the shape of the cornea. The soft contact lens is placed next to the eye lens and acts as a cushion for a rigid contact lens.
- Hybrid eye lenses: These hybrid lenses have both soft and hard components in a single lens. The centre is rigid, which helps keep the cornea in shape while the outer circle is soft and promotes comfort.
- Corneal Implants: In severe cases, corneal implants may be recommended. These are small plastic polymer fragments which are placed inside the cornea. They help hold the cornea in proper shape. During the procedure, tiny incisions are made; they heal quickly.
- Corneal transplantation: On average, 10%-20% of keratoconus patients may need to have a corneal This is a surgical procedure in which the affected cornea is removed and replaced with a donor’s cornea. After the surgery, the patient may still need to wear eye glasses or contact lenses for clearer vision.