Our eyes have a number of different components. Covering the very front of them is the cornea. This is a thin, transparent dome that covers the pupil and iris and, along with the sclera, acts as a barrier against dirt, germs and other external elements that could cause damage, disease, infection or injury to the eye. In addition to this, the cornea also plays an essential role in our vision, refracting light as it enters our eyes so that it passes through our eyes and accurately hits the retina. The retina is responsible for converting light into messages which are sent to our brain to tell us what we can see.
The cornea, like any other part of our eye, can be affected by problems. One of the many issues that can affect the cornea is known as keratoconus. Here’s what you need to know about this condition, including what treatment is available to help you to overcome the issues that it causes you.
Keratoconus is an eye disease that is characterized by the progressive thinning of the cornea, resulting in a cone-shaped bulge developing in the area of greatest thinning, which is usually the center of the cornea. This causes the patient to experience a range of different issues with their vision, the development of myopia. Also known as near-sightedness, this is where the patient can see an object close to their eyes clearly, but those that are at some distance, such as road signs, appear blurred. The most significant someone’s myopia, the poorer their distance vision will be.
There is no specific underlying cause responsible for the development of keratoconus. However, there are some factors that are believed to make experiencing the condition more likely. These are:
Suffering from an eye injury
Experiencing over-exposure to UV light
Wearing poorly fitting contact lenses
Rubbing your eyes a great deal, as is often seen in people with allergies affecting their eyes or dry eye disease
A diagnosis of a health condition that has been linked to the development of keratoconus, such as Ehler-Danlos syndrome (ED)
Keratoconus can cause patients to experience a variety of different symptoms. It typically affects both eyes and the following signs could be indicative that you are suffering from this condition:
Mildly blurred or distorted vision progressing to more severe vision problems
Increase sensitivity to light and glare
Being unable to wear contact lenses as they no longer seem to fit properly
In most cases, symptoms will develop slowly over the course of several years. However, in rare cases, it can come on suddenly. If you experience any of these symptoms it warrants an appointment with your eye doctor, regardless of whether you are diagnosed with keratoconus or another eye problem.
Fortunately, patients have a number of options when it comes to treatment for their condition. Your eye doctor may recommend any of the following solutions.
As their name suggests, these contact lenses are made from soft material and are normally recommended for use in the earliest stages of keratoconus. They are usually slightly larger in diameter than regular contacts which help to make them stable on the surface of the eye and whilst you wear them, they work to reshape the cornea and correct your vision so that you can see clearly again.
Gas permeable lenses are made from a special material that enables oxygen to pass through them and keep your eyes healthy and well lubricated whilst you are wearing them. They are more rigid than soft lenses and are very easy to handle since they retain their shape. Gas permeable lenses provide good clear vision, but some patients are unable to tolerate wearing them for long periods of time.
Scleral contacts are another type of specialty contact lens. Unlike regular contacts, they do not make fully make contact with the surface of the eye but instead, vault over the cornea and touch down on a part of the sclera, ensuring space to accommodate any bulging. There are multiple sizes available, but all are much larger in diameter than standard lenses, ensuring their stability on your eye. They can take some getting used to, but most patients achieve exceptional vision when wearing them.
If contact lenses do not give you sufficient relief from the symptoms associated with keratoconus, you may be recommended to try one of the surgical options that are available. One of these is a minimally invasive procedure called keratoplasty, which involves a hand-held device emitting radio waves being used to reshape the cornea. The other is a corneal transplant that sees your cornea removed and replaced with an artificial lens, but this is usually the very last resort.
If you would like more information about keratoconus or have further questions about the treatments that are available, please get in touch with our knowledgeable team by calling our eye care center in Burleson, TX today.