What is keratoconus?

How can Clarin Eye Care
manage your case?

If you’ve been told you may have keratoconus, you’re probably concerned about the diagnosis and its prognosis for your future vision and eye health. While it’s still important to address it early, you’ll be relieved to learn there are relatively simple, non-invasive or minimally invasive procedures available to manage keratoconus in most patients.

Keratoconus is an eye disease affecting the shape and structure of the cornea–the outer, transparent part of the eye that allows light to enter the eye. Often leading to increased astigmatism, keratoconus occurs when the cornea thins, then vaults or bulges. This condition allows too much light to enter, which reduces focus and visual acuity.

Though often misdiagnosed early on as astigmatism, a keratoconus diagnosis may eventually include “irregular astigmatism” keratoconus. This is where the curvature of the eyes surface is irregular, uneven, or curved in different directions.

Normal

Keratoconus

Who is at risk for Keratoconus?

About one in 2,000 Americans suffer from keratoconus, with most being children around the age of puberty–in middle or high school. It is more common among Hispanics. There is no known or preventable cause; however, in some cases, children who excessively rub their eye or eyes have been known to develop keratoconus.

Most sufferers first realize something’s wrong when they perceive blurry vision in one or both eyes. The condition most commonly presents itself as myopia (nearsightedness), or the inability to see distances. In some cases one eye may be worse than the other. Thankfully, there is no pain or discomfort associated with keratoconus.

How will you know if you or your
child might have keratoconus?

It could be a child athlete who cannot clearly see a baseball or teammates’ faces. It could be a student having difficulty reading the board.

Symptoms also include: sensitivity to bright light; distorted, triple, or “ghost-like” images; and light streaking or “halos” around objects, especially at night.

Untreated, the corneal lining can continue to weaken, leading to progressively worse vision, often into the patient’s mid-30s. With most patients, even though the progression of keratoconus may end, the symptoms will not go away without treatment.

There is little to no risk of total vision loss.

Sensitivity
to bright light

Distorted, Triple, or
“ghost-like” images

Halos around
objects

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you or your child complains of blurry vision, a visit to our office could help diagnose the case and provide or recommend a solution.

If your doctor suspects keratoconus, a comprehensive eye exam will measure and map the cornea’s shape and thickness. This can confirm the diagnosis and rule out regular astigmatism. If confirmed, vision in mild cases may be improved with glasses or special contact lenses. Custom-fit contact lenses can re-form the cornea’s spherical shape. Though it’s a hard lens that fits over the entire sclera (the visible surface of the eye), few patients, even children, complain of discomfort from the lens.

Other non-invasive treatments include ointment or eye drops to control swelling. These options manage or temporarily reshape the eye. They are not a permanent treatment.

More lasting treatment options include the FDA-approved corneal collagen crosslinking (CXL). A local ophthalmologist with whom we partner will remove the cornea’s outer epithelial cells. Vitamin B12 (riboflavin) drops followed by UV light help reharden the cornea in the right shape. Patients then return to our office to be fitted with and prescribed protective contact lenses to cover the sclera for up to seven days during recovery. This helps stabilize the cornea and prevent further misshaping. If successful, CXL may prevent the need for a cornea transplant.

Cost

What does this cost?

The fitting for custom scleral lenses can cost from $2,000 to $8,000, and require several office visits. Many vision insurance plans cover at least some if not most of the procedure’s cost. The lenses usually are replaced each year.

Clarin Eye Care has been treating patients with keratoconus for more than 10 years. As management and treatment options have evolved, our patients have enjoyed significant improvements to their vision, especially when we’ve begun treatment soon after symptoms present themselves.

That’s why it’s important that your family seek professional help as soon as you notice changes in vision.