What is Keratoconus and What Symptoms Should I Look Out For?
Submitted by Atlanta Vision Cataract and Laser Center on February 1, 2019
Keratoconus tends to take patients by surprise because it develops at an early age, often in the teenage years when no one expects a serious and progressive problem with their corneas.
We’re specialists in keratoconus at Atlanta Vision Cataract & Laser Center, so we know to watch for this problem in our teen and young adult patients.
More importantly, when we catch keratoconus at an early stage, we offer highly specialized treatment that can stop the condition from worsening. Here’s all the information you need to know about keratoconus, including its early symptoms — call us as soon as you or your child notice any of the key symptoms.
Your cornea is essential for vision
Keratoconus is an eye condition that affects your cornea, which is the clear, dome-shaped membrane covering your eye. Understanding the role of your cornea helps to illustrate the damage inflicted by keratoconus.
The cornea is essential for your vision because it’s responsible for 65-75% of the eye’s focusing power. When light rays reach the cornea, it uses its round shape to bend the light, focusing it onto the center of your lens.
If the cornea isn’t properly rounded, light rays hit the lens in a scattered manner. While the lens normally fine-tunes the focus, it can’t make up the difference when the cornea is too misshapen to do its job. As a result, you develop a vision problem like nearsightedness or astigmatism.
Effect of keratoconus on your cornea
When you have keratoconus, your cornea becomes progressively thinner and steeper. As these changes occur, the middle of the cornea begins to bulge outward, forming a cone-like shape rather than its normal rounded shape.
In some patients, keratoconus progresses slowly, while it proceeds at a rapid pace in others. The only thing that’s certain is that it is progressive, steadily worsening for about 10-20 years, depending on the age at which it develops.
Keratoconus typically appears during the teenage years and then it continues to worsen into your 30s and possibly as late as your 40s, before the thinning stabilizes and stops. During this time, your vision also progressively worsens.
Top symptoms of keratoconus
Keratoconus usually affects both eyes, but the corneal changes can progress at a different rate in each eye. This means your symptoms may be different in each eye.
Be on the lookout for these symptoms, which occur in the early stages of keratoconus:
- Red or swollen eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Blurry vision
- Double vision
- The appearance of halos around bright lights
- Slightly distorted vision (straight lines look wavy)
- Sensitivity to light and glare
As keratoconus worsens, you begin to experience more serious vision changes. Blurry, distorted, or double vision become more severe. If you haven’t already been diagnosed with a refractive error, you develop nearsightedness or astigmatism.
Nearsightedness makes distant objects appear blurry, while your close-up vision is clear. Astigmatism makes near and far objects appear blurry or distorted.
If you already wear corrective lenses for nearsightedness or astigmatism, you need new glasses as keratoconus worsens. Patients who wear contact lenses find that their lenses become uncomfortable and don’t fit properly.
With early identification, we can stop keratoconus progression
Schedule an appointment as soon as you notice vision changes or eye symptoms like redness and swelling. When we diagnose keratoconus at an early stage, we can stop its progression with an innovative and safe treatment called corneal cross-linking.
But getting an early diagnosis is essential. Corneal cross-linking can prevent further progression of keratoconus, but it doesn’t reverse corneal thinning that has already occurred. The good news is that we can perform corneal cross-linking on young patients and preserve their vision.
If you have any questions about eye symptoms or vision problems, call the team at Atlanta Vision Cataract & Laser Center or book an eye examination using the online booking feature.