Keratoconus literally means cone-shaped cornea (AAO quote 2010)
Are you suffering with vision problems related to keratoconus? Are you seeking some expert ophthalmic eye care for this problem? If so the keratoconus specialists at Washington Eye Physicians & Surgeons can possibly help. Feel free to read some of our information regarding keratoconus and treatment options below.
What is the cornea and how does this relate to keratoconus?
The cornea is the window and outer surface of the eye. When you are interpreting an image light travels through the cornea past the lens to the retina and then the brain to form a visual image. The normal corneal surface is smooth and aspheric and flattens towards the edges. Light rays passing through it moves in an undistorted manner to the retina to project a clear image to the brain. This is the typical normal working cornea.
Keratoconus is a very slow progressive eye condition that affects the cornea. The normally round, dome-shaped cornea weakens and thins, causing a cone-like bulge to develop. The regular curvature of the cornea becomes irregular, resulting in increasing nearsightedness (myopia) and astigmatism that have to be corrected with special glasses or contact lenses. Since the cornea is responsible for refracting most of the light coming into the eye, corneal abnormalities can result in significant visual impairment, making simple tasks like driving or reading books.
Symptoms of Keratoconus (EYE FACTS AAO worksheet, 2010)
- mild burning
- glare at night
- irritable eye
- sensitivity to light
- some distortion of vision
Dealing with Keratoconus
When you are a keratoconus patient your cornea is irregular and cone shaped. Eyeglasses will not adequately correct vision since they cannot conform to the shape of the eye. The general approach to vision correction is to use rigid contact lenses. These lenses do not prevent the progression of keratoconus but provide a clear surface in front of the cornea allowing the light rays to be projected clearly to the retina. Scleral contact lenses may also be an option prior to considering surgery.
Intacs is a trademark name for implantable corneal ring segments. These are very thin inserts of varying sizes that were previously used to treat low levels of nearsightedness. They have been FDA approved for the treatment of keratoconus. These rings are inserted into the middle layer of the cornea, in our practice with the assistance of a femtosecond laser, and are positioned so that they will help flatten the cornea and lessen the astigmatism. This can improve uncorrected vision and vision with glasses, but depending on how severe the keratoconus is, contact lenses may still be required for best corrected vision. Intacts do not prevent progression of keratoconus.
What happens when keratoconus worsens
Overtime keratoconus can progress with more severity. Vision will no longer be correctable with glasses. Iron will deposit around the base of the protrusion and the tissue will thin. In severe cases, a temporary painful condition called acute hydrops may occur when water rushes into the thinned area of the cornea. Penetrating keratoplasty or corneal transplant surgery should be considered at this point.