What is it Like to Have Keratoconus?
Ask anyone in the optical industry, and they’ll tell you that thinner is not always better. At least when it comes to your eyes.
For an average, healthy person to see out of a normal eye, an optometrist may be able to measure the difference in thickness of the different layers of your eye. If some layers of cells are too thin, it can cause serious visual issues, like keratoconus.
Keratoconus is caused when the transparent, outermost layer of your eye – called the cornea – thins and causes a bulge near the center. The cornea’s center is usually the thickest part. This bulging creates a cone at the front of your eye and changes its normal, round shape. Because vision is focused as light passes through your eye, falling on photoreceptors, a bulging cornea will affect your vision profoundly.
However, there is a treatment that may help you deal with keratoconus.
How keratoconus Affects You
Seeing through any irregular shape is difficult. Those with keratoconus must see through a cone shape, which changes how they see the world around them by blurring and distorting everything.
Although keratoconus is often thought to be the result of genetic and environmental issues, the development of keratoconus is not fully understood. However, it is believed that because the cornea primarily consists of water and collagen, a lack of collagen may cause it to thin, leading to the development of the disease.
In some cases, keratoconus may cause sensitivity to light and glare. Those dealing with keratoconus may feel they’re losing a significant part of their sight. But in most cases, keratoconus will not cause total blindness – even if you “feel” blind without vision correction.
If you’re dealing with these issues, your doctor may recommend you wear large diameter rigid gas-permeable lenses called scleral lenses to correct your vision.
How to Treat Keratoconus
There are two schools of thought behind managing different types of keratoconus:
- Treating and slowing the progression of the disease.
- Improving vision for moderate to severe forms of the condition.
Most cases of the disease develop between the ages of 10 and 25 and typically progresses slowly. If caught and treated early, keratoconus’ progression can be halted with corneal collagen crosslinking and the vision can be corrected with soft, disposable contact lenses or eyeglasses. It may be more comfortable to wear scleral lenses since the cornea’s irregular shape prevents regular contact lenses from adhering to the eye correctly.
Scleral contact lenses correct vision in keratoconus cases by keeping a layer of liquid between the cornea and the contact lenses, creating a “liquid lens” in the eye. This liquid lens bridges the gap between the cone and the lens, neutralizing irregular astigmatism and temporarily restoring the eye’s round shape and allowing patients to see more clearly.
In more moderate to severe cases of the disease, people with keratoconus cannot see clearly without corrective lenses.
Corneal collagen cross-linking surgery is designed to slow or stop progression of keratoconus. In more advanced cases, specialty contact lenses are often necessary for adequate vision correction. Rigid lenses often yield the best vision for keratoconus patients.
So, in order to achieve optimal visual potential, people should visit their eye doctor to determine which treatment is best for them and how to choose the best contact lenses for their eyes and lifestyle.
Your doctor is always happy to discuss your vision health and help you see correctly. If you feel you could be seeing better, schedule an appointment to discuss how your eye doctor can make contact lenses work for you.