What is keratoconus eye disease?

Keratoconus (pronounced KEHR-uh-toh-KOH-nus) is an uncommon condition in which the normally round, dome-like cornea (the clear front window of the eye) becomes thin and develops a cone-like bulge. Keratoconus literally means “cone-shaped cornea.”

The cornea is a very important part of your eye. Light enters the eye through the cornea, which refracts, or focuses, the light rays so that you can see clearly. With keratoconus, the shape of the cornea is altered, distorting your vision. Keratoconus can make some activities difficult, such as driving, typing on a computer, watching television or reading.

Keratoconus literally means cone-shaped cornea. It is an uncommon condition in which the normally round, dome-like cornea (the clear front window of the eye) becomes thin and develops a cone-like bulge. Symptoms of keratoconus include mild blurring of vision, slight distortion of vision, increased sensitivity to light, glare, and mild eye irritation. Keratoconus usually affects both eyes, though symptoms in each eye may differ.

Symptoms usually start to occur in people who are in their late teens and early 20s. The cause of keratoconus is still not known. Some researchers believe that genetics play a role, since an estimated 10% of people with keratoconus also have a family member with the condition.

Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. During the early stages, vision can be corrected with eyeglasses. As the condition progresses, rigid contacts may need to be worn so that light entering the eye is refracted evenly and vision is not distorted. You should also refrain from rubbing your eyes, as this can irritate the thin corneal tissue and make symptoms worse. When good vision is no longer possible with contact lenses, a corneal transplant may be recommended. This surgery is only necessary in about 10% to 20% of patients.

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