If the cornea becomes thin, it may bulge like a cone or become very irregular, resulting in an inability to focus an image clearly. This is known as keratoconus. It does not trigger blindness but can lead to incapacitating vision loss.
The cause of keratoconus continues to be undetermined, though latest research appears to suggest that it may stem from a mixture of genetic and environmental influences.
Several cases of keratoconus have a genetic factor and research suggests that around 20% of keratoconus patients have affected relatives. Other genetic diseases are linked to keratoconus, such as, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Trisomy 21 (Down’s Syndrome) and Marfan’s Syndrome.
Keratoconus may cause vision to become blurry and distorted, making all sorts of daily tasks like seeing, reading, and driving quite difficult. It does not cause complete blindness, but if left untreated, keratoconus can lead to so much restricted, distorted vision that it can meet the definition of legal blindness.
It is absolutely essential to see an optometrist and ophthalmologist that specialises in keratoconus to ensure appropriate treatment. Treatment options for keratoconus include glasses or contact lenses. When properly prescribed, contact lenses are the most successful option. In fact, up to 95% of keratoconus can be managed very well with glasses or specialty contact lenses – with eyesight restored close to normal vision.
There are other surgical interventions to ensure that keratoconus does not progress if contact lenses are not successful. Most people with keratoconus are under the impression that the only form of treatment available is corneal transplantation, but there are many treatment options available including other surgical interventions. In only certain cases is corneal transplantation required.