Keratoconus is a disorder that causes a progressive thinning of the cornea. The cornea is the transparent, outermost layer of the eye. As a result of this condition, the outward pressure from within the eye causes the cornea to progressively bulge into a cone-like shape. Although keratoconus rarely results in total blindness, if left untreated, it can lead to severe vision impairment and possibly a corneal transplant.
While nobody knows the cause of keratoconus, there is evidence that the disease has genetic origins that may be worsened by environmental factors. It normally affects both eyes, but they can progress at different rates. In most people, keratoconus begins during their teen years and slowly worsens before stabilizing in their 30's or 40's.
Keratoconus has many noticeable symptoms, all of which affect vision quality. The most common symptoms include:
Keratoconus is estimated to affect one in two-thousand people. Like many other vision problems, treatment varies depending on the severity of the condition. For mild and moderate keratoconus, most treatments are non-invasive:
For severe keratoconus, surgery is typically the only effective option:
Corneal inserts, known as Intacs prescription inserts, provide a unique new option to improve a person's vision and possibly defer a corneal transplant. Intacs are used for the correction of nearsightedness and astigmatism when contact lenses and glasses no longer provide suitable vision. For patients who are contact lens intolerant, Intacs prescription inserts offer a less threatening option than a corneal transplant. The goal of an Intacs procedure is to provide the patient with keratoconus the ability to achieve functional vision with contact lenses or glasses, and in some cases, with no vision aid at all.
This is the most common treatment for severe keratoconus. Please see the corneal transplant page for more information.