Keratoconus is an uncommon condition in which the dome-shaped cornea (the clear front window of the eye) becomes thin and develops a cone-like bulge. As the condition progresses, the shape of the cornea is altered, distorting your vision. Usually, keratoconus affects both eyes, although symptoms and progression in each eye may differ.
Early symptoms include mild blurring of vision, increased sensitivity to light and glare, and mild eye irritation. The rate of progression varies. Keratoconus usually begins in the teenage years. It may progress slowly for 10 to 20 years and then suddenly stop. As it progresses, the most common symptoms are increased blurring, increased nearsightedness or astigmatism, inability to wear contact lenses, and frequent eyeglass prescription changes.
The causes of keratoconus are not known. Since an estimated 10% of people with keratoconus have a family member with the condition, some researchers believe genetics may play a role.
Keratoconus is usually corrected with eyeglasses. However, as the condition progresses, rigid contact lenses may be needed so that vision is improved. If vision is greatly affected, a corneal transplant may be recommended. While this procedure will relieve the symptoms of keratoconus, it will not cure it completely. Nonetheless, in advanced keratoconus corneal transplants offer the best prognosis for clear vision.
A new treatment called collagen cross-linking recently has been evaluated in the treatment of progressive keratoconus and has been shown to be effective in some patients. The provincial government funded a study (2012-2015) and is still reviewing the results to determine whether the procedure will be funded under OHIP. For now it is an uninsured service though you may be eligible for treatment at no cost at academic vision centres in Ontario. Check with your ophthalmologist to see if you are a good candidate.