The cornea is imperative to our vision. This thin, transparent dome covers the front of our eyes to protect them. It is also responsible for refracting the light that enters our eyes, focusing it onto the retina where it is transmitted to the brain, which then tells us what we can see. If there are problems with the cornea, it can significantly affect our vision. One corneal problem that is fairly common is known as keratoconus.
Fortunately, our professional eye care team has extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of keratoconus, meaning that we can offer you the help that you need to see clearly again.
Keratoconus is a non-inflammatory eye condition. It occurs when the cornea, which is usually round and dome-shaped, becomes much thinner. This causes a cone-like bulge to develop and the patient begins to experience a range of symptoms, some of which affect their vision. Keratoconus is progressive. This means that it will continue to worsen until treatment is sought. As the cornea becomes increasingly more cone-like, it causes the patient to develop myopia, better known as near-sightedness. This is where the patient has the ability to see objects close to them clearly with ease, but those that are further away appear blurred. Other symptoms of keratoconus include astigmatism, swelling, and scarring of the cornea, and eye strain and headaches which develop as a result of trying to focus on the objects that you cannot see clearly. Keratoconus can develop in one eye, or in both at the same time.
It isn’t known why some people develop keratoconus and others don’t. Some experts believe that genetics play a vital role in the development of the condition. Other known risk factors which could put someone at greater risk of keratoconus include the following:
Experiencing injury to the eye
Over-exposure to UV light
Chronic eye-rubbing as a result of irritation caused by dry eye syndrome or allergies
A history of wearing poorly-fitted contact lenses
Suffering from sleep apnea
Having a health condition that is linked to keratoconus including Down syndrome and Ehler-Danlos syndrome
Exactly what treatment you will be offered for keratoconus will depend on the severity of the condition. Some of the treatments that our team may recommend may include the following:
Normally used in the earliest stages of keratoconus, bespoke-created soft contact lenses are used to help reshape the cornea and correct vision. These are available in a wide range of fitting parameters and are normally larger in diameter than regular lenses. This helps to provide greater stability to the cornea.
Similar to soft lenses, these contact lenses are made from a gas permeable material which enables plenty of oxygen to circulate beneath the eye, keeping it healthy and moist. Gas permeable lenses make contact on either side of the natural cornea, vaulting over the top and providing a perfectly contoured dome through which the light entering the eye can be refracted.
Another form of contact lens, scleral and semi-scleral lenses are much larger in diameter than standard contacts. Their edges rest on the white part of the eye, known as the sclera. As you might expect, semi-scleral lenses are a little smaller in size. However, like gas-permeable lenses, both vault over the bulging cornea. This ensures that they are comfortable to wear since they don’t place pressure onto the bulge. However, they both offer greater stability than gas-permeable lenses because their larger diameter means that they don’t move around when you blink and move your eyes.
This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that may be recommended if contact lenses aren’t giving you sufficient relief from your symptoms. This procedure uses a hand-held device that delivers high energy radio waves with the goal of reshaping the cornea so that the bulge is reduced. The treatment is planned using topography – an advanced technological system that takes images of your cornea and turns them into a map of the surface, telling our team what areas need to be targeted by the keratoplasty treatment.
If your keratoconus has advanced and other treatment options are no longer working for you, you may be advised to have a corneal transplant. As its name suggests, this involves removing the existing cornea and replacing it with an artificial lens. Recovery from a corneal transplant can take a number of months, with many patients still reliant on prescriptive eyewear after.
If you have questions about keratoconus and would like more information about the condition and the treatments that are available, please contact our offices where our team would be delighted to have the opportunity to assist you.