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Causes of Keratoconus

5 August 2019

Keratoconus is a corneal eye disease, affecting the sensitive protective outer layer of the eye.  Although there are no known causes associated with this sometimes hereditary condition, if left untreated, it can cause blurred vision and light sensitivity. Keratoconous causes the normally round cornea to thin and bulge outward to form a cone, preventing the retina from focusing the eye due to a lack of light.   

As we’ve already noted, there are no known causes associated with keratoconus, although some eye experts suggest that keratoconus occurs when a patient is suffering from certain pre-existing medical conditions. Other findings indicate that allergies, excessive eye rubbing, repeated exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun and improper use of contact lenses could all play a role, with an emphasis on younger patients. 

The earliest keratoconus signs typically appear during the teenage years, as signs and symptoms gradually change as the condition progress through to early adulthood. If you’re experiencing persistent blurriness or light sensitivity, it’s important to seek a keratoconus diagnosis before symptoms impact your ability to enjoy life. During a keratoconus eye test, an ophthalmologist will examine your cornea and map its surface to check if there are changes in its curve.

Symptoms of Keratoconus – Early Stages

Early signs of keratoconus can be diagnosed from as early as 10 years of age. The changes in the shape of the cornea happen gradually, where the patient may experience the following symptoms:

  • Glare and increased sensitivity to light (Keratoconus light sensitivity or photophobia)
  • Mild blurring of vision
  • Distorted vision (straight lines appearing bent or wavy)
  • Redness and swelling of the eyes
  • Eye strain

Symptoms of Keratoconus – Late Stages

It typically takes years for a patient to reach the late stages. As keratoconus progresses, the cornea slowly loses its clarity and smoothness, leading to long-term scarring and vision distortion. Symptoms include:

  • Increased distortion and blurring of vision
  • Progressive astigmatism – when the cornea loses its normal shape and your eyes  have difficulty focusing on objects near or far. As a result, keratoconus specialists may recommend prescription lenses
  • Headaches – one of the more progressive symptoms of keratoconus is headache, which is due to frequent eye strains and light sensitivity
  • Dry eye – patients may also develop keratoconus dry eye. This is because an uneven cornea will make it more difficult for your eyelids to spread tears across your eyes
  • Decreased night vision – Keratoconus night blindness also happens when corneas become steeply curved

Risks for Keratoconus – Late Stages

There are a few risk factors that may increase the development of keratoconus:

  1.  A family history of keratoconus – According to studies, keratoconus can be passed down from one generation to the next. 
  2.  Specific medical conditions – People who already have retinitis pigmentosa or loss of cells in the retina, Down Syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, hay fever and asthma are more likely to develop keratoconus.
  3. Excessive rubbing of the eyes.
  4. Eye allergies.

Can Keratoconus cause blindness?

Keratoconus does not directly lead to blindness. However, as the condition progresses, vision gradually degrades and you may experience difficulties.

Keratoconus complications can happen when the inner lining of the cornea breaks down, causing fluid to enter the cornea. This is known as cornea hydrops. This leads to excessive swelling of the cornea, a sudden reduction in vision and scarring. A scarred cornea may cause worsening vision problems and may a cornea transplant surgery.

How can I prevent Keratoconus?

Yearly eye screenings and tests can spot early signs of keratoconus before it starts developing. If this condition runs in your family, it is important to inform an eye doctor right away and get tested. Early detection increases the likelihood you’ll come out of your brush with Keratoncus with no long-term issues. 

If you are diagnosed with keratoconus, make sure to follow the advice of your eye doctor regarding treatment options and overall care. Treatment options will depend on the characteristics of your condition. You may be advised to wear lenses, undergo cross-linking or both.

It is also important to avoid excessive eye rubbing to prevent keratoconus from worsening. Frequent visits to the ophthalmologist and going through routine eye exams will ensure that your cornea remains stable and your vision maintained.

Treatments for Keratoconus

There are several options for keratoconus treatments available in Australia.

  1. Lenses – Patients with mild keratoconus are often advised to wear glasses or gas permeable contact lenses.
  2. UV Crosslinking – Patients with moderate keratoconus with the risk of worsening may undergo ultraviolet corneal crosslinking. This is one of the most effective and safest keratoconus treatment options. Crosslinking stiffens the cornea so it stops or slows the progression of keratoconus.
  3. Keraring – Kerarings are clear semicircular rings inserted at the edge of the cornea that restores the cornea’s normal curve and helps improve vision. Patients may undergo keraring surgery, which is minimally invasive and only takes about 30 minutes.
  4. Corneal transplant-  Also called a penetrating keratoplasty, a corneal transplant is the last option for patients with worse cases of keratoconus, where contact lenses and other therapies can no longer correct vision.

 At Hunter Laser Vision we are able to provide treatment and care for all Keratoconus patients, depending on their indvidual needs.

Hunter Laser Vision has been a leader in providing the best in corrective eye surgery throughout the Hunter Region for more than 20 years. Talk to one of our team members today to discuss your most urgent eye surgery needs.

 

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