Keratoconus is an abnormal shape of the cornea. Keratoconus literally means “cone-shaped cornea.” Pronounced (KEHR-ah-toh-KOH-nus), Keratoconus is an uncommon eye condition where the normally round, oval-like cornea becomes thin and develops a cone-like bulge.
The cornea is the clear, front part of the eye, a very crucial part that has a lot to do with how you actually see. As light enters the eye, the shape of the cornea direct the light rays so that they land in a particular fashion on the nerves in the back of the eye, called the "retina". If the light rays are directed correctly, you can see clearly. When the cornea is affected by keratoconus, it actually expands outward and becomes extremely steep and almost pointed, thus changing dramatically the direction of light entering the eye. Images become blurry and distorted. Keratoconus can make many activities difficult, such as skiing, driving, typing on a computer, watching television. Some basic activities just become overwhelmingly difficult for a keratoconus patient.
It is very common that 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.
NOTE: Patients with keratoconus are typically not good candidates for LASIK eye surgery. With the assistance of Corneal Associates of New Jersey, a patient with keratoconus can receive state-of-the-art treatment modalities. Our cornea specialists are fellowship trained specifically to treat this special eye condition. You may rest assured that your eyes are in the best of hands with Corneal Associates of New Jersey.
Symptoms of Keratoconus (symptoms may vary)
Keratoconus is routinely problematic in both eyes, however; symptoms in each eye may differ. It is a myth that keratoconus only affects older people or seniors with vision problems. Keratoconus can affect persons of all ages but typically starts to develop by the mid – late teen years. The rate of keratoconus progression varies. It will often progress slowly for 10 to 20 years and then suddenly stop.
As the condition progresses, the most common symptoms include:
- distortion of vision
- sensitivity to light
- slight irritation
- mild blurring of vision
Treatment will often depend on the severity of the condition. During early stages, vision can be corrected with eyeglasses. As the condition progresses, rigid contacts may need to be worn so that light entering the eye is refracted evenly and vision is not distorted. You should refrain from rubbing your eyes, as this can aggravate the thin corneal tissue and make symptoms worse.
Intacs Corneal Implants
When good vision is no longer possible with contact lenses or Intacs, a corneal transplant may be recommended. Corneal transplantation is only necessary in about 10-20% of patients with keratoconus. During corneal transplantation, your cornea specialist removes the diseased cornea from your eye and replaces it with a healthy donor cornea.
While a corneal transplant will relieve the symptoms of keratoconus, it may not provide you with flawless vision; eyeglasses or contacts may still be needed to achieve your best vision.
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Keratoconus and LASIK Laser Eye Surgery
Due to the irregular shape of corneas that have keratoconus, LASIK or other laser vision correction is often ruled out. The Orbscan diagnostic device can determine the steepness of your cornea through a simple eye test and a topographic map of your eye can be measured. Recent advancements may make you a candidate for a different type of refractive surgery. If you are a patient that has developed keratoconus and you would like to experience the same lifestyle benefits that LASIK has brought millions of people, please make sure to discuss this desire with Dr. Perl. Dr. Perl currently uses the Phakic Lens Implants for patients with high to moderate levels of myopia.
If you are an existing keratoconus patient and require the professional consultation of a cornea specialist please feel free to contact our practice. Corneal Associates of New Jersey is dedicated to understanding the cornea and diseases of the cornea.