What is it?
Keratoconus is a non-inflammatory disease of the cornea that causes progressive thinning and protrusion of the central corneal tissue. In advanced stages it produces a significant deformity of the cornea that causes blurred vision. This disease usually appears in infancy-adolescence and its degree of progression varies, depending on each case.
Keratoconus does not hurt. It can cause ocular discomfort and the sensation of a foreign object due to the bulging of the cornea producing an inadequate distribution of the tears on the ocular surface. In advanced stages it can cause pain and sudden loss of sight.
With the means available at present that permit early diagnosis and the new treatments, Keratoconus is a disease that allows maintaining vision levels compatible with performing most of the tasks of daily life.
Is it frequent?
It is a rare disease. Depending on the series studied, its incidence varies. One out of every 2000 inhabitants in the general population can suffer Keratoconus. It is slightly more frequent in men.
What causes Keratoconus?
Its cause is unknown. It is frequently associated with: persons with the habit of rubbing their eyes, allergy (rhinitis, asthma, atopy), systemic collagen diseases, Down’s syndrome…
The role of inheritance is not clearly defined, since there are many patients with Keratoconus that do not have family histories of it. If you have children, it is recommended to study them to rule out Keratoconus, when they begin school.
How is it treated?
The current creation of specific subunits of ectasias in different centres has permitted optimizing the treatment in these patients.
At present there is no medical treatment to cure Keratoconus. It is especially important to stress the prevention of its progression, detecting it early, advising against rubbing of the eyes, drops to relieve ocular discomfort, etc…
At the start of the disease, the visual defect is corrected by special glasses and contact lenses. Once Keratoconus progresses, the most effective treatment is surgery, implanting intracorneal rings, corneal crosslinking….
In very advanced stages where the above techniques are no longer effective, a lamellar cornea transplant is considered, which will permit eliminating only part of the cornea that is damaged.
Source: “Tratamiento de la ectasia corneal”. Ed. Mc Line. Madrid 2007
Courtesy of: Dra. Cristina Peris Martínez
Deputy Medical Director of the Fundación Oftalmológica del Mediterráneo (FOM) Unit of Cornea and Diseases of the Anterior Segment