Chances are you’ve never heard of keratoconus before. Yet, according to the Canadian Keratoconus Foundation, roughly 1 in 1000 people are likely to suffer from this degenerative eye disease. Unfortunately, the symptoms of keratoconus often affect teenagers, which is why it’s crucial that you get your child’s eyes tested on a regular basis. Here’s what you need to know about this serious eye disease.
What is Keratoconus?
Simply put, keratoconus is a slowly occurring progressive eye disease in which the normally round cornea (the clear outer part of the eye) thins and begins to bulge into a cone which then bends the light as it enters the eye, resulting in blurred vision. While the exact causes of the disease remain unknown, doctors suspect that it’s likely due to a combination of genetics and environmental conditions.
Unfortunately, unlike blurred vision caused by other eye conditions (such as near sightedness and far sightedness), in the later stages of keratoconus, it’s extremely difficult to correct the symptoms, even with glasses or contact lenses. Again, early detection is key in minimizing the more severe symptoms of the disease.
Recognizing the Signs of Keratoconus
While the symptoms of keratoconus can occur at any age, for those affected by the disease, symptoms typically begin to appear during their teens or early twenties.
The earliest signs of keratoconus are blurry vision, an increased sensitivity to light, difficulty driving at night, eye strain, headaches and general eye pain and eye irritation. In the advanced stages of the disease, patients may experience a “clouding” of vision in one eye that appears and then disappears over several weeks or months. If you suspect your teenager is suffering from any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your optometrist immediately.
Treatment of Keratoconus
Currently, there are a variety of keratoconus treatments available; depending on what stage the disease has reached. For patients in the early stages of keratoconus, optometrists will often prescribe eyeglasses or soft contact lenses to help correct any symptoms. In some cases, optometrists may also insert “intacs”, small plastic rings that can reshape the cornea. Unfortunately, the only treatment that’s able to actually stop the progression of keratoconus is something known as Corneal Collagen Cross-Linking (or CXL). During this procedure, the cornea is treated with vitamin B2 drops and exposed to low levels of UV-A light. This then causes a reaction in which the fibers of the cornea link together to prevent more bulging.
Keratoconus can be extremely serious if undetected and untreated. That’s why it’s important to get your teen a regularly scheduled comprehensive eye exam—even if you don’t think there’s a problem. Be sure to speak with your optometrist immediately if you believe your child may be exhibiting any of the symptoms of keratoconus.
To book a complete eye exam for you or your child, find the FYidoctors location nearest you.