What is Keratoconus?
"Kerato" meaning cornea, "conus" meaning pointed.
Keratoconus is a condition that affects the front surface of the eye, the cornea. The cornea changes shape becoming cone shaped. The cornea acts to focus rays of light on the retina. It is a very powerful lens (about 4x as powerful as a hand held magnifier) and so minor changes in its curvature can have a devastating effect on vision. In early stages of keratoconus this usually shows up as astigmatism and can be corrected with spectacles.
If the keratoconus progresses then spectacles or soft contact lenses will not provide adequate vision. The degree and rate of progression varies between individuals. Typically the condition will stabilise.
It is rare for keratoconus to cause blindness, and with the latest contact lens designs corneal surgery less frequent.
What causes Keratoconus?
The exact cause of keratoconus is unknown. It is generally considered to be genetic in origin as often more than one family member may be affected. Another theory is that rubbing of the eyes may be a contributing factor, there is a higher incidence of keratoconus in atopic patients (sufferers of allergic conditions such as hay fever, asthma and eczema).
As more research is conducted the cause of keratoconus will no doubt be better understood.
Are many people affected by keratoconus?
The amount of people affected by keratoconus varies throughout the different populations of the world. Between 1 to 5 in every 10,000 people are affected. Males and females are affected equally. Keratoconus is not usually detected before the teenage years.
In most patients one eye will be affected more than the other.
How is Keratoconus treated?
Keratoconus can not currently be cured, all of the treatments are designed to provide better vision. In mild cases or where only one eye is affected spectacles may provide adequate vision. The next option is to be fitted with a Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) contact lens. RGP contact lenses can provide a life time of visual correction in most patients.
K-Contour lenses as specially designed to fit cone shaped corneas, providing quality vision a minimal stresses on the cornea. The wide range of parameters K-Contour lenses are available in mean that if the keratoconus progresses both vision and comfort can be maintained.
In rare cases surgical intervention may be necessary. There are also exciting new treatments starting to emerge such as riboflavin (C3-R) treatment, but currently RGP contact lenses will provide the best option for most patients.
How does my optometrist know I have keratoconus?
To confirm keratoconus is present your optometrist will either map your eyes with a topographer, or see the cone shape when fitting a contact lens.
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