The cornea can be thought of as the window of the eye and in this analogy; keratoconus would represent a window made of warped glass. In keratoconus, the cornea becomes more and more misshaped which causes progressive distortion in vision. Although keratoconus is probably linked to genetics, it can also be worsened by habitual eye rubbing, so if you are an “eye-rubber”, this would be one (of many) great reasons to stop!
Patients with mild or early keratoconus may be satisfied with their vision in glasses or soft contact lenses. However, patients with moderate to advanced keratoconus may need rigid gas-permeable (RPGs) or hard contacts to achieve their best visual potential. When hard contacts cannot be tolerated or provide adequate vision for a patient with keratoconus, the next step is typically a full-thickness cornea transplant or Penetrating Keratoplasy (PKP) which removes and replaces the diseased cornea.
Many patients are initially unaware they have keratoconus and see their eye doctor because of increasing blur or progressive changes in their prescription. Keratoconus may occur in one eye only initially but most commonly affects both eyes with one eye being more severely affected than the other. Both males and females and all ethnicities are equally affected. There are treatments currently available, like collagen cross-linking, designed to stop or at least slow the progression of keratoconus, possibly keeping patients with mild or early keratoconus from even needing a cornea transplant! So, if you are noticing progressive changes in your eye glasses or contact lens prescriptions or more trouble seeing clearly, make an appointment and come in to make sure you don’t have any early signs of keratoconus, especially if you have a history of habitual eye rubbing!