Keratoconus may not be a familiar word for many people, but the disease affects a large number of eye care patients. Keratoconus (KCN) is a progressive eye disease that causes complications with the cornea. It results in vision problems that range from mild to severe and will likely require some form of corrective methods to improve the person’s ability to see.
Through years of research, professionals have been able to determine generally how many people have keratoconus, and the results are surprising. Since a 2017 study performed by Dr. Daniel Godefrooij, it was found that KCN affects roughly 5-10 times more patients than the original findings suggested. Let’s take a deeper dive into what keratoconus is below.
As stated above, keratoconus is a progressive eye disease that can impair a person’s vision and significantly affect the cornea. For patients with keratoconus, the cornea in one or both eyes becomes thin and scars in the center. Specifically, keratoconus involves the central portion of the cornea, which affects a large portion of the eye. The result is a noticeably protruding cornea that has an irregular conical shape followed by poor eyesight.
It’s typical for keratoconus to become present during puberty, or a person’s teen years, and worsens or progresses over time. By the 5th or 6th decade of life the disease will stabilize, but typically a patient with keratoconus will experience irregular astigmatism or scarring that might not be treatable by corrective lenses alone. In the worst cases, a patient may require a corrective procedure known as a corneal transplant.
Originally, research done in part by NKCF (National Keratoconus Foundation) suggested that 1 in 2,000 people were diagnosed with KCN. Years later in 2017, these numbers were questioned by Dr. Daniel Godefrooij who determined that these rates are significantly higher than what was traditionally found. When determining how many people have keratoconus, LASIK (laser in situ keratomileuses) eye surgery played a critical role.
LASIK is a popular method of vision correction that uses lasers to correct the refraction of eye lenses for patients suffering from myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. With the increased popularity of LASIK therapy came the realization that keratoconus affects more people than had been previously reported.
Today, Dr. Daniel Godefrooij reports the ratio of people suffering from KCN being 1 in 375. That’s more than 5 times as many people as researchers had originally found.
The cause of KCN is still mostly undetermined, but the development and progression of the disease have been heavily studied over time. Some research has suggested that chronic rubbing of the eyes may contribute to and possibly expedite the overall progression of the eye disease. The most common symptoms of keratoconus to be aware of include:
The plan of treatment for keratoconus will depend on the severity of the patient’s condition. Of utmost importance is early detection, as a recently FDA approved treatment called corneal cross-linking is now available to stabilize the condition. Mild KCN may be treated with the use of corrective lenses, such as eyeglasses or contact lenses. Moderate cases will likely require specialty contact lenses like gas permeable (GP), hybrids or scleral lenses to provide acceptable vision. However, severe forms of KCN may require more aggressive treatment methods such as a corneal transplant or Intacs Corneal Implants.
Keratoconus treatment focuses primarily on slowing the progression of the disease and improving vision. Essentially, there are three types of treatment to help with KCN symptoms which consist of corrective lenses, therapy, or surgery.
If you’ve been experiencing vision problems, it’s important to meet with your Reno optometrist to properly diagnose the issue at hand. You may be suffering from keratoconus and not even realize it. A licensed, trained optometrist can evaluate your vision problems, assess your eye health, and provide an effective method of treatment.
It may be necessary to consider eye surgery and specialty contact lenses to correct your vision problems caused by keratoconus. Dr. Bolenbaker at the Visionary Eye Center can help to develop a unique treatment plan that’s designed to suit your eye care needs.