Keratoconus is a progressive eye condition that affects the shape and structure of your cornea. Because keratoconus is a progressive condition, it will most often continue to get worse. But can keratoconus be cured?
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for keratoconus, but there are several treatments available that can help to manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the condition.
In most cases, the first line of treatment for keratoconus is glasses or contact lenses, including custom-fit scleral contact lenses. Determining the best treatment option for your unique eyes will start with a visit to your optometrist.
What Is Keratoconus?
Individuals with keratoconus experience thinning in their cornea, the clear dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. Your cornea plays an essential role in how your eye refracts light, allowing you to see clearly. In keratoconus, the cornea thins and bulges outwards, leading to distorted and blurry vision.
Mild cases of keratoconus may be treated in the same way as other vision problems like nearsightedness or astigmatism. However, keratoconus will most often progress over time, causing the cornea to become more cone-shaped and requiring specialized treatment. If left untreated, keratoconus can result in significant vision loss.
Keratoconus Risk Factors
The exact cause of keratoconus is ultimately unknown, however, there are certain genetic and environmental factors that may put you at an increased risk of developing the condition.
Risk factors for keratoconus include:
- Genetics: Having a family history of keratoconus may increase your risk of developing it. 1 in 10 individuals with keratoconus have a parent who also has the condition.
- Age: Keratoconus is most often diagnosed in adolescence or early adulthood.
- Eye rubbing: Consistent, aggressive rubbing of your eyes may contribute to the development of keratoconus.
- Certain medical conditions: Having a connective tissue disorder such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome may increase your risk.
- Chronic eye inflammation: Constant eye inflammation caused by allergies or other irritants may increase your risk of keratoconus.
Keratoconus most often progresses slowly over time and may first present as any other refractive error. Keratoconus usually starts to develop during adolescence and symptoms will continue to progress for 10–20 years.
Common symptoms of keratoconus include:
- Blurred or distorted vision
- Increased sensitivity to light and glare
- Difficulty seeing at night or in low-light conditions
- Seeing halos around lights
- Eye strain or fatigue
- Eye irritation or rubbing
- Frequent changes to your eyeglass prescription
- Headaches or migraines
- Eye pain, particularly in advanced cases of keratoconus
It’s important to note that not all individuals with keratoconus will experience all of these symptoms, as symptoms may vary depending on how severe their keratoconus is. If you’re experiencing changes to your vision or have concerns about your eye health, it’s important to speak with your eye doctor.
Treatment Options for Keratoconus
While there is no cure for keratoconus, the condition can be managed effectively with the right treatment plan. Treatment options for keratoconus will vary depending on the severity of the condition. Below we will break down some of the most common treatment options for keratoconus.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of available treatments. If you’re diagnosed with keratoconus, you can work closely with your eye doctor to determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs.
Glasses & Contact Lenses
In its earliest stages, keratoconus may cause blurred vision and distortion. In many cases, vision can be corrected through the use of prescription glasses or contact lenses. However, as keratoconus progresses, glasses and contact lenses may not be enough to correct vision, and you may need to explore other treatment options.
Scleral contact lenses are designed to accommodate corneal irregularities and may be beneficial for individuals with keratoconus. This type of contact lens is designed to cover a large portion of the sclera (the white part of your eye) and vault over your cornea. Scleral lenses can help to maintain the shape of your cornea while correcting your vision, making them an excellent option for individuals with early-to-intermediate cases of keratoconus.
Corneal Collagen Cross-Linking
Individuals with intermediate keratoconus may benefit from a procedure called corneal collagen cross-linking. This procedure involves using specialized eye drops and UV light exposure to strengthen the cornea and prevent it from bulging further. Corneal collagen cross-linking has shown promising results in slowing down the progression of keratoconus and improving vision.
In some cases, a corneal transplant may be necessary to treat advanced keratoconus. During a corneal transplant, the damaged cornea is replaced with a healthy donor cornea.
Corneal transplants have a high success rate, but they are generally reserved for patients with severe keratoconus who have exhausted all other treatment options. According to the National Keratoconus Foundation, 15–20% of individuals with keratoconus will require a corneal transplant.
Find Quality Eye Care
While there is currently no cure for keratoconus, there are several treatments available that can help manage symptoms and slow down the progression of the condition. By working closely with your eye care team, individuals with keratoconus can lead fulfilling lives and maintain good vision for years to come.