Keratoconus: Symptoms,

Causes and Treatment



Overview  |  Symptoms  |  Diagnosis  |  Risk Factors

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. You may have no symptoms in the early stages. 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 way of preventing it. It affects roughly 1 in every 2000 people and 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.

It is often more noticeable in one eye than the other, though it usually affects both eyes. It may progress slowly over several years.

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 as they experience no obvious symptoms.

Your symptoms will become more noticeable and severe as the condition develops.

Signs and symptoms 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.

Stage 1

In the early stages, you may have 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.

Stage 2

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

Stage 3 is the most advanced. You will likely have substantial corneal thinning and scarring at this stage. We may use corneal ring segments and corneal transplants to treat the keratoconus though this is rarely needed since the introduction of cross-linking.

Diagnosing keratoconus

As the early stages 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.

We will also perform scans of your cornea. The most accurate method of diagnosis is using AI-powered technology corneal topography scans which provide a detailed analysis of the structure of your cornea.

Watch our videos of hear Mr Tariq Ayoub explaining 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 getting it. If you fit into one or several of these categories, pay close attention to keratoconus symptoms.

Visit our keratoconus treatment page to learn more about treatment options.

Book an appointment

As keratoconus develops, it can lead to a severe loss of vision, corneal thinning and scarring. 

Speak to our 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 arrange an assessment and testing.

If you’re worried that another eye specialist has missed your symptoms, we offer a second opinion service to put your mind at ease.

Contact us

0330 128 1616

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The Care Quality Commission (CQC)

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