Keratoconus: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Your cornea – the clear layer at the front of your eye – is usually dome-shaped. However, keratoconus causes the cornea to bulge outwards, in the shape of a cone. In the early stages, you may have no keratoconus symptoms. Though as the condition progresses, your vision may become slightly blurred.
Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms and causes of keratoconus, and how we diagnose it.
What is keratoconus?
Keratoconus is a progressive eye condition with no known prevention. It affects roughly 1 in every 2000 people. It commonly starts to develop around puberty, between ages 10 and 25.
As the condition progresses, your vision will become poorer as your prescription changes and astigmatism worsens.
Keratoconus is often more pronunced in one eye than the other, though it usually affects both eyes. It may progress slowly over several.
If your vision worsens suddenly, speak to one of our ophthalmologists (eye specialists) for advice. A sudden vision change should always be assessed by a medical professional. Contact us for assistance.
Symptoms of keratoconus
In its earliest stages, people with keratoconus are often unaware they have it due to a lack of symptoms.
Your symptoms will become more noticeable and severe throughout the keratoconus stages.
Signs and symptoms of keratoconus include:
- Blurry vision
- Increasingly poor vision
- Double vision in one eye (monocular diplopia) or both eyes
- Glare and ‘halos’ around light
- Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Eye irritation or headaches
- Short-sightedness (myopia)
- Frequent change in glasses prescription
- Irregular astigmatism
- Scarring of the cornea
- Thinning of the cornea
If these symptoms sound familiar, speak to one of our ophthalmologists (eye specialists). We will assess your symptoms to determine the possible causes. Getting an early consultation can prevent loss of vision and further damage to your cornea which is inevitable as the condition progresses.
Read on to learn more about the stages of keratoconus.
Stages of keratoconus
There are three stages of keratoconus: early/ moderate, intermediate and advanced. In this section, we’ll cover the signs and symptoms of each stage and treatment options.
In the early stages, you may present with no symptoms. During stage 1, we may recommend glasses or contact lenses to counter short-sightedness and astigmatism. Your contact lenses may be soft or hard.
The changes in the shape of your cornea become apparent in this stage. We may also notice corneal thinning. We would often use cross-linking to prevent keratoconus from progressing further. This may be combined with laser treatment (called laser refractive cross-linking) to improve the quality of vision and reduce or regularise your astigmatism. Suitability for this treatment is based on your scans and the health of your eyes.
Stage 3 is the most advanced keratoconus stage. You will likely have substantial corneal thinning and scarring. We may use corneal ring segments and corneal transplants to treat the keratoconus though this is rarely needed since the introduction of cross-linking.
As the early stages of keratoconus show no symptoms, we often diagnose it during an assessment for laser vision correction procedures. If you already had a diagnosis of astigmatism that is changing rapidly, we would screen for keratoconus.
In our initial consultation, we will assess your eyes and symptoms. We will also go through risk factors, such as eye rubbing and a family history of keratoconus.
Once we suspect keratoconus, we will perform scans of your cornea to diagnose the condition. The most accurate method of diagnosing keratoconus is using AI-powered technology corneal topography scans which provide a detailed analysis of the structure of your cornea.
Watch our video to hear Mr Tariq Ayoub explain the causes of keratoconus.
Other risk factors include:
- Being black or Latino
- Certain disorders, such as Down syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- Chronic eye inflammation; can occur due to allergies, asthma, etc.
- Age – starting around puberty
Anyone can get keratoconus, though these risk factors can increase the likelihood of keratoconus. If you fit into one or several of these categories, you should pay close attention to keratoconus symptoms.
Visit our keratoconus treatment page to learn more about the treatment options for keratoconus.
Book an appointment
As keratoconus develops, it can lead to a severe loss of vision, corneal thinning and scarring.
Speak to an eye specialist early if you’re showing the signs and symptoms of keratoconus. Our experienced specialists diagnose keratoconus using AI-powered technology.
Book a consultation with our experts today to prioritise your eye health and vision.