World Keratoconus Day: All about the eye condition that could lead to permanent vision loss
Keratoconus is a degenerative eye condition that could lead to vision distortion and even permanent blindness if left untreated.
World Keratoconus Day: Keratoconus is a rare degenerative eye condition where the dome-shaped outer lens of the eye called cornea becomes cone-shaped because of thinning due to this progressive, degenerative disorder. It can lead to vision distortion and if left untreated for a long time, it can also cause permanent blindness. Recently, late actor Puneeth Rajkumar's cornea was donated to four patients out of which two suffered from Keratoconus. Although two corneas from a donor are usually transplanted into two corneal blind patients, but in case of actor Puneeth Rajkumar, his corneas were sliced into four parts and went to four different patients.
World Keratoconus Day is observed annually on November 10 to spread awareness about this rare eye condition.
"Keratoconus usually occurs during the teenage years however, it can also start in the childhood years. In this condition, the cornea shape changes over many years but the change is more rapid in younger patients," says Dr. Aarti Heda, Consultant Ophthalmologist (Pune) & Medical Consultant of Entod Pharmaceuticals.
She also talks about the symptoms and treatment of the eye condition in detail.
What is Keratoconus?
The outer lens of the eye, the cornea is dome-shaped like a ball. When the structure of the cornea is not strong enough, it bulges outward and this condition is known as keratoconus.
"There are tiny protein fibres in the eye known as collagen that keep the cornea in place. When the fibres become weak, the cornea starts to lose its shape and adopts a shape similar to that of a cone," says Dr Heda.
Symptoms of Keratoconus
As the shape of the cornea changes to a cone in this condition, the front expands which makes vision near-sighted. Objects that are far away appear blurred, according to the eye expert.
The common symptoms associated with keratoconus are:
* Double vision on viewing with one eye
• Light streaks
• Blurry vision
• Bright lights seem to have halos around them
How Keratoconus could lead to blindness
If not treated on time, the eye condition can have several side-effects. While some may experience pain in the eyes, in rare cases, people may lose their vision permanently.
"The other side effect of keratoconus is corneal scarring which makes it difficult for patients to wear contact lenses. Eyeglasses also prove to be of little help in such scenarios," says Dr Heda.
Treatment of Keratoconus
The treatment of keratoconus usually depends on the progression and stage of the disorder. During the early stages, nearsightedness and blurry vision can be tackled to some extent with prescription eyewear. An ophthalmologist can suggest different options or procedures to treat the condition, some of which are:
Soft Contact Lenses or Eyeglasses: In the case of mild keratoconus, soft contact lenses or prescription eyeglasses can correct distorted and blurry vision. While contact lenses and glasses cannot stop the progression of the keratoconus, it is crucial to get the eyes checked on a timely basis to take care of the changing vision.
Specialised Lenses: Hybrid lenses are soft on the outer ring and hard in the middle and are often recommended for keratoconus. Apart from that, scleral lenses are also recommended that go over the cornea without touching it. Such lenses are beneficial in treating vision issues related to this disorder.
Intacs: Intacs are corneal implants, surgically placed into the eyes to reshape and flatten the cornea. They are used for treating myopia and astigmatism related to keratoconus.
Collagen cross-linking: In this procedure, eye drops are used along with a special ultraviolet light to make the cornea stronger and keep it from bulging forward.
Corneal Transplant: In advanced cases of keratoconus where the cornea is severely damaged, a transplant surgery to replace the affected cornea with a donor cornea is done by an ophthalmologist. The patient may require contact lenses afterwards.