Understanding Keratoconus: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Keratoconus is a progressive eye condition that affects the cornea, the clear, front part of the eye. This condition is characterized by the thinning of the cornea, causing it to bulge outwards in a cone-like shape. This change in the cornea's shape can lead to significant visual impairment, including blurry or double vision, nearsightedness, and astigmatism. The onset of keratoconus typically occurs in the late teens or early twenties and progresses gradually over several years.


The impact of keratoconus on an individual's vision quality can be profound. It can interfere with everyday activities like reading, driving, and watching TV. It can also affect one's self-esteem and overall quality of life. Hence, understanding keratoconus is of utmost importance.



Understanding the Causes of Keratoconus


The exact cause of keratoconus remains unknown. However, researchers believe that it results from a combination of genetic, environmental, and hormonal factors. Some studies suggest a link between keratoconus and certain allergic conditions, such as hay fever, eczema, and asthma. Others point to a correlation between keratoconus and habitual eye rubbing, which might contribute to corneal thinning.


Genetics also play a significant role in keratoconus. It's often found that individuals with a family history of the eye condition are at a higher risk. Several genes are associated with keratoconus, although the specific genetic mutations causing the condition remain undefined.



Recognizing the Symptoms of Keratoconus


Early detection of keratoconus can significantly improve treatment outcomes. It's crucial to recognize the signs and symptoms of this eye condition. The symptoms of keratoconus often start subtly and gradually worsen over time.


In the early stages, individuals with keratoconus may experience a slight blurring or distortion of vision. They may also notice increased sensitivity to light and glare. Often, these early symptoms can be easily corrected with eyeglasses or soft contact lenses.


As the condition progresses, the symptoms become more pronounced. Individuals may experience frequent changes in their eyeglass prescription due to rapidly changing vision. They may also notice a significant distortion in their vision, making straight lines appear wavy or bent. This occurrence is due to irregular astigmatism caused by the cornea's bulging.


In the advanced stages of keratoconus, vision may become severely impaired. Individuals may experience significant nearsightedness and irregular astigmatism, making it difficult to perform daily activities. At this stage, regular contact lenses or glasses may no longer provide adequate vision correction.



Treatment Options for Keratoconus


The main goal of keratoconus treatment is to slow the disease's progression and manage its symptoms to maintain the patient's quality of vision. The appropriate treatment plan varies depending on the severity of the condition.


In the early stages of keratoconus, eyeglasses or soft contact lenses can often correct vision adequately. As the condition progresses and the cornea thins and becomes more irregular, rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses may be required. These lenses maintain their shape on the eye, providing a smooth refractive surface to improve vision.


For more advanced cases of keratoconus, other treatment options may be necessary. Corneal cross-linking (CXL) is a minimally invasive procedure that strengthens the corneal tissue to halt the progression of keratoconus. In severe cases, a corneal transplant may be required to restore vision.



The Role of Scleral Lenses in Keratoconus Treatment


Scleral lenses have emerged as an effective treatment option for keratoconus. These are rigid contact lenses that rest on the sclera, the white part of the eye, and vault over the irregular cornea.


Scleral lenses work by creating a new, smooth, artificial front surface for the eye. This new surface corrects vision problems caused by corneal irregularities. Additionally, the space between the cornea and the back surface of the scleral lens is filled with a saline solution, which provides continuous hydration and promotes corneal health.


Scleral lenses can be particularly beneficial for those with moderate to severe keratoconus. They can provide improved vision quality and comfort compared to other contact lens types, making them a popular choice for many keratoconus patients.



The Benefits of Scleral Lenses for Keratoconus Patients


The use of scleral lenses offers several benefits for keratoconus patients. First and foremost, they provide superior vision correction. Scleral lenses create a smooth optical surface, correcting the vision distortions caused by the irregularly shaped cornea.


Scleral lenses are designed to vault over the cornea without touching it, reducing the risk of corneal abrasions, which can occur with other types of contact lenses. This feature makes scleral lenses more comfortable to wear, particularly for individuals with sensitive or irregular corneas.


Lastly, scleral lenses can help slow down the progression of keratoconus. The lenses provide a barrier that can help prevent further mechanical trauma to the cornea, such as from excessive eye rubbing.



Manage Your Keratoconus Today


Keratoconus is a challenging eye condition, but with early detection and appropriate treatment, its progression can be managed effectively. It's essential to understand the causes, recognize the symptoms, and be aware of the various treatment options available, including the use of scleral lenses. Remember, maintaining regular eye exams is key to protecting your vision and overall eye health.


If you suspect you may have keratoconus, or if you've been diagnosed with this condition, consult with our professionals at Family Vision Solutions in our Spring, Texas office. We are committed to taking care of your eyes and providing the best patient care experience. Please call (713) 349-0224 to schedule an appointment today.