There are many common eye conditions that most patients are aware of such as glaucoma, cataracts, and refractive errors. However, aside from the latter, there are few that are of much concern during youth. After all, most health conditions tend to impact individuals as they age, and those affecting the eyes are no different. Yet, there are some, albeit rare, conditions which are not only problematic for vision and eye health but that are more likely to occur during a patient’s younger years. Keratoconus is one such condition.
What is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus is a condition affecting the cornea, or the clear covering of the eye. In a healthy cornea, tiny fibers of protein support it and help it hold its shape. However, those with keratoconus experience a gradual weakening of these fibers and the cornea slowly begins to protrude outward into a cone shape.
What are the Symptoms of Keratoconus?
In the early stages, keratoconus may cause blurring of vision and sensitivity to light or glare. This is often corrected with the use of glasses or soft contact lenses. However, if the condition progresses, so too will the method of treatment. As keratoconus worsens, prescriptions may begin to change frequently and vision may become suddenly cloudy or distorted in the affected eye. Patients may move to hard, gas permeable contact lenses, and in the most severe instances, a corneal transplant may be needed.
Who Develops Keratoconus?
Typically, signs of keratoconus first appear in or around the teenage years. However, while less likely, there are cases of individuals in their 30s or 40s being impacted by the condition. It may progress quickly, or it may move slowly over the course of the next 10 or more years. It is more likely to occur in those who have a family history of keratoconus, those who also have Down syndrome, and those who have a habit of rubbing too vigorously at their eyes.
When is a Corneal Transplant Needed for Keratoconus?
In advanced cases of keratoconus, the cornea may become scarred or extremely thin, and it may no longer be possible to help vision improve through the use of corrective eyewear. While patients may not become completely blind from keratoconus, legal blindness and extreme vision interference from such keratoconus complications will likely require correction through corneal transplant surgery (keratoplasty). During this procedure, the damaged and diseased cornea is replaced with a healthy donor cornea. While complications such as graft rejection or poor vision may occur, this type of procedure has shown to be largely successful in the treatment of keratoconus.
If you are concerned about the possibility of keratoconus and associated complications, the first step is to visit an ophthalmologist for testing and a confirmation of your diagnosis. Identifying and monitoring the condition as early as possible is key to successful treatment. For those in the greater Baton Rouge area, Eye Specialists of Louisiana is home to many highly-trained ophthalmologists, all of whom can help ensure both the current and long-term health of your eyes. Call (225) 768-7777 to schedule a consultation.