What is Keratoconus?

What is it?

Keratoconus is an eye condition where the front layer of the eye (the cornea) thins, which causes it to become shaped like a cone rather than round. It usually starts in adolescence and gets worse until the early 20s. Maori and Pacific Island populations are at a higher risk, as are those with allergy or a family history of the condition.

What does it do?

The changing shape of the cornea causes vision to become blurry. In early keratoconus a person might achieve good vision with glasses. As it progresses, special contact lenses might be needed to give good vision. If it gets to an advanced stage the eye may need a corneal transplant, or may have hydrops, where fluid gets into the cornea and causes scarring.

What is the treatment?

Contact lenses usually give the best vision but in advanced keratoconus or an eye with scarring the vision may still be reduced even with lenses. Corneal cross linking is a surgery offered to people with worsening keratoconus which can stop the cornea from thinning and steepening further, but there is no treatment to reverse the condition.

How can I prevent it?

Early detection and monitoring is the only way to make sure you or your child’s eyes stay healthy. If there is a family history of keratoconus then corneal mapping should be done from a young age so that keratoconus can be diagnosed and cross linking surgery can be performed. This will ensure the eye never advances to severe keratoconus and blindness. Treating allergy (eczema, hayfever, etc) is also crucial, as rubbing itchy eyes is known to make keratoconus get worse faster. An optometrist can usually detect keratoconus at a regular eye exam.