What is Keratoconus?
People have heard of most eye conditions, such as macular degeneration or glaucoma. But if you really want to stump people at a party ask them what “keratoconus” is. You’ll hear the sound of crickets.
Keratoconus is a progressive eye disease where the person’s normally round cornea thins and then begins to bulge into a cone-like shape. Because the cornea shape is now a cone, this deflects light entering the eye on its way to the retina and distorts vision.
Keratoconus can affect one or both eyes and it usually begins during the teens or early 20s. We treat keratoconus at Millennium Park Eye Center.
What is it?
Keratoconus, often referred to as “KC,” starts as the cornea thins. That then changes the shape. A normal cornea is round. If a person has astigmatism, the cornea will be oval. But a normal cornea should lie relatively flat. As the cornea thins with keratoconus, it causes the shape to change, pushing forward in the center to create a cone. This new shape doesn’t allow light to accurately enter the eye and hit the retina in a clear point of focus. This distorts vision.
What causes keratoconus?
There is a genetic predisposition to acquiring KC. The disease often affects more than one person is the same family. An imbalance of enzymes within the cornea makes it more susceptible to oxidative damage from compounds called free radicals. As the cornea weakens, it bulges forward.
Beyond potential genetic influences, keratoconus is associated with overexposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun, excessive eye rubbing, a history of poorly fitted contact lenses, and chronic eye irritation.
How is keratoconus treated?
At Millennium Park Eye Center, Dr. McMahon is our specialist in keratoconus. He employs different methods for treating keratoconus. In mild cases, accurate, new eyeglasses or soft contacts may be all that is necessary, but these won’t do the job for more advanced cases.
· Gas permeable contact lenses — These are the primary treatment for keratoconus. Gas permeable contact lenses are custom prescribed and manufactured in these cases. These special GP lenses provide a smooth surface that can focus light in place of the cornea’s distorted surface.
· Corneal collagen crosslinking — The cornea is made of layers that are crosslinked together by collagen fibers. In this procedure, we saturate the cornea with riboflavin eye drops (vitamin B2) and then expose it to ultraviolet light. This causes a chemical reaction that increases the collagen crosslinks and makes the cornea stronger.
· Surgery — This is only necessary in the most severe and advanced cases. These procedures involve a partial or full corneal transplant.
Are you having problems with your eyes? Call the experts at Millennium Park Eye Center, (312) 996-2020, to make an appointment.