Today is World Keratoconus Day! by: Luke Potts, MD, PhD
Today is World Keratoconus Day, a time to focus on raising awareness of this disease and to recognize those patients and families who live with this condition. Keratoconus is a condition that affects the cornea, the clear window of the front of the eye. It causes gradual warping of the cornea’s natural shape, which affects vision. The severity can range from mild cases, in which vision is still good with glasses, to severe forms in which a corneal transplant is required to improve vision. It can rarely be seen in children, but more commonly in adolescents and young adults, who often see an eye doctor because vision is becoming worse. If your glasses prescription is changing rapidly, or if glasses and soft contacts are no longer giving you adequate vision, then special testing can be done to see if keratoconus may be the cause.
If you (or someone you know) are diagnosed with keratoconus, one of the most important things you can do to help prevent worsening is avoid rubbing your eyes completely. It sounds like a simple suggestion, and many of us have probably heard people say that it’s not a good idea to rub your eyes. But if you have keratoconus, this can actually be a very helpful way to slow progressive warping! This is often one of the first things eye doctors tell patients after they are diagnosed, and it is always very important for anyone with keratoconus to avoid this habit.
To help prevent progression to the point of needing a corneal transplant, the most effective medical treatment in existence is a procedure called corneal cross-linking. This procedure helps to “lock in” the shape of the cornea so that it stops warping. If you are 25 years old or younger, cross-linking is the most important thing you can do to help maintain vision for the rest of your life. Once this procedure has been done, the corneal shape is much more likely to remain stable. You can then have a much higher degree of confidence that your glasses or contact lens prescription will remain stable. Keratoconus can dramatically affect a person’s quality of life by slowly taking away their visual clarity, and understandably thus causing a lot of concern. Fortunately, cross-linking can help stop the corneal change, and advancements in contact lens optics can often help give good vision even to patients with fairly advanced keratoconus.
The medical and scientific communities continue to work on finding improvements in how we diagnose and treat keratoconus. These advancements expand the ways that eye doctors can help patients with keratoconus improve their vision, and maximize their overall quality of life. Maintaining awareness of this disease is the first step in continued progress, and we in the eye care community come together to dedicate this day to that goal.