Have you ever heard of Keratoconus? This rare eye disease might not be on your radar, but it affects millions of people worldwide. In India, it is estimated that 2.3% of the population suffers from keratoconus.
What Is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is a progressive eye condition that causes your cornea to become thin and bulge into a cone-like shape. This can result in blurry or distorted vision, increased sensitivity to light, and frequent changes in your eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions. It typically affects both of your eyes and often begins during adolescence or early adulthood. In severe cases, you may need a corneal transplant to restore your vision.
Causes of Keratoconus
The exact cause of keratoconus is unknown, but it is believed to be influenced by genetic and environmental factors. Some studies suggest that the condition may be caused by an imbalance of enzymes within your cornea, which leads to the weakening and thinning of the tissue. Other factors that may contribute to the development of keratoconus include chronic eye rubbing, allergies, and connective tissue disorders. Additionally, some research has suggested that oxidative stress, hormonal imbalances, and certain medications may also play a role in the development of keratoconus.
Symptoms of Keratoconus
There are several symptoms of Keratoconus, including the following:
- Blurred or distorted vision
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions
- Halos or glare around lights
- Eye strain or fatigue
- Poor night vision
- Double vision
- Ghosting or overlapping of images
- Eye irritation or itching
- Eye rubbing
However, some of these symptoms may be associated with other disorders, so it’s best to always consult your ophthalmologist and get yourself tested before reaching any conclusion.
Treatment options for Keratoconus
Some of the most widely accepted keratoconus treatment options are:
- Eyeglasses: In the early stages of keratoconus, eyeglasses can help correct mild to moderate astigmatism and improve vision. However, as the condition progresses, eyeglasses may no longer provide you with adequate vision correction.
- Contact lenses: Specialized contact lenses such as rigid gas permeable lenses or scleral lenses can be used to correct vision in keratoconus patients. These lenses are designed to provide you with a smooth and uniform surface for light to enter the eye, compensating for the irregular shape of your cornea.
- Cross-linking: Corneal cross-linking is a minimally invasive procedure that involves applying a special UV-activated solution to the cornea and exposing it to UV light. This causes the collagen fibers within your cornea to form stronger bonds, which helps to halt the progression of keratoconus and prevent further thinning of the cornea.
- Intrastromal corneal ring segments: Also known as Intacs, these are small plastic inserts that are surgically placed in your cornea to help reshape and support it. Intacs can improve vision and reduce the need for glasses or contact lenses in some patients with keratoconus.
- Corneal transplant: In advanced cases of keratoconus where vision is significantly impaired, a corneal transplant may be necessary. During this procedure, a portion of the damaged cornea is removed and replaced with a donor cornea. This is typically reserved for cases where other treatment options have failed.
It is important to note that the appropriate keratoconus treatment will depend on the severity of the condition and the specific needs of the individual patient. Only an ophthalmologist or optometrist who specializes in the management of keratoconus can provide you with the right guidance on the most appropriate treatment option.