Keratoconus is a disorder in which the cornea becomes weak, thin, and abnormally shaped. This progressive disorder causes the eye to become cone-like in shape and can result in severe loss of vision. Symptoms of keratoconus usually appear during the late teenage years and gradually progress for about 10 to 20 years. In some cases, the condition will stabilize after a period of time. Keratoconus can affect each eye differently. The symptoms of keratoconus are nearsightedness, astigmatism, glare, blurred vision, frequent prescription changes, light sensitivity, and Munson’s sign (distortion of lower eyelid due to corneal protrusion).
The root cause of this disorder is unknown, but it is believed that genetics play a major role. According to recent research, enzymes in the eyes malfunction, and the resulting chemical imbalance causes the cornea to become thin. Chronic eye irritation, rubbing of the eyes, sun exposure, and incorrect contact lenses can increase the severity of this condition. In most cases of keratoconus, the only part of the eye that is affected is the cornea. The patient’s vision can be corrected to 20/20 using glasses during the initial stages of keratoconus. The only way to diagnose the condition is to take measurements of the cornea or to use corneal topography.
As the condition progresses, vision correction cannot be obtained using only eye glasses. Towards the base of the corneal protrusion, iron is deposited and the corneal tissue will become thin. Fine stress lines, known as Vogt’s striae, can develop gradually and in extreme cases the patient will experience a painful temporary condition known as acute hydrops. Acute hydrops occurs when water enters the thin area of the cornea, which can cause severe scarring. About one in 2,000 people develop keratoconus; however, most patients suffer from a mild to moderate form of keratoconus.
At the onset of the condition, Dr. Boothe recommends gas permeable contact lenses or eye glasses to correct mild cases of keratoconus. Specifically designed contact lenses are essential in severe cases, as the cornea will be more distorted. Each individual will require a unique contact lens design. Dr. Boothe will evaluate the patient’s condition to provide for the best vision results, corneal health, and comfort. The progression of keratoconus can be slowed by using eye drops with riboflavin content and a specific light to help strengthen the collagen present in the eyes.
Conductive keratoplasty guided by a topographic map of the cornea can aid in the correction of corneal irregularities. In this procedure, radio wave energy is applied with the help of tiny probes to reshape the surface of the eye. Customized treatment is made possible by the creation of a topographic map. Intacs, plastic rings placed inside the cornea, can be inserted to help the cornea maintain its shape and stabilize the condition. By maintaining the shape of the cornea, the patient may be able to wear contact lenses.
According to Dr. Boothe of Boothe Laser Center, corneal transplants and keratoplasty procedures are considered last resorts for keratoconus, after other treatment procedures have failed. More than 90% of corneal transplantation surgeries are successful in treating keratoconus. Corneal transplantation helps many patients obtain 20/40 vision or better using contact lenses or eye glasses.