Keratoconus means a conical cornea. The cornea is the clear window on the front of the eye that allows light to reach the retina at the back of the eye. It is normal gently curved. In keratoconus it form a conical shape. This can affect the vision. It is slowly progressive in most people, but the vision problem is correctable with appropriate prescription glasses or contact lenses, in nearly all cases. .
What symptoms does this cause?
For many people the symptoms may be of distortion or blurring of vision. Changes usually occur in late puberty and onwards, and there may be little change over the year. In severe cases the eye may become uncomfortable and red.
What causes Keratoconus?
The exact cause is unknown, but in some people there may be a history of allergy such as hay fever, eczema or asthma.
How common is it?
Keratoconus affect 1 in 3000 of the population.
Does it run in families?
In 7% of cases other family members are affected. An effected person has less than one chance in ten of passing Keratoconus to their children.
How can it be treated?
In the early stages a change of glasses may be all that is required. Some people are prescribed contact lenses, which help the eye to focus better: they, however, do not stop the eye from getting worse. If contact lenses are no longer helpful then a corneal graft or transplant may be necessary.
What is a corneal transplant?
This is also called a corneal graft or keratoplasty. The central part of the affected cornea is removed and replaced with healthy corneal tissue from someone who has died and donated his or her organs (this tissue is tested for both hepatitis B and HIV before it becomes available for the operation).
The operation can be performed under a local or a general anaesthetic and the donor cornea is stitched into the eye with tiny stitches. These remain in place usually for several months although some adjustment may be necessary. Normally after the operation, the eye checks are made every few weeks then every few months. The vision often takes a long time to improve (months rather than days). Drops will be prescribed to prevent infection and to help prevent the graft from being rejected.
The graft is usually successful but complications can arise. If the graft rejects, the vision may become blurred, red or painful and it is important to see the doctor at once as emergency treatment may be required to stop the graft from being rejected.
All information is for reference purposes only; if you have any concerns we recommend that you visit a qualified optician.