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What is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is an eye condition that causes the naturally round surface of the cornea to weaken and bulge forward into a conical shape. The bulging of the cornea therefore affects the way the light hits the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in distorted vision.

What Causes Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is caused by a weakening of collagen and a decrease in protective antioxidants in the cornea.

  • Collagen are tiny fibres of protein in the eye that are responsible for keeping the cornea in place.
  • Protective antioxidants are responsible for protecting the collagen fibres by expelling the damaging by-products that the cornea cells produce in the eye.

Therefore, if antioxidant levels are low, the collagen fibres weaken, causing the cornea to bulge.


What are the Symptoms of Keratoconus?

The primary symptom of keratoconus is an irregular shaped cornea, where it appears to ‘bulge’ forward from the eye socket.

Secondary signs and symptoms include:

  • Rapid deterioration of vision in teens to 25 year olds
  • Astigmatism (blurred or unfocused vision)
  • Myopia (short-sightedness)
  • Eye halos and ghosting
  • Problems with glare from lamps or the sun
  • Poor night vision
  • Eye strain, pain and irritation
  • Headaches

If these symptoms begin to interfere with your daily routine or are present to the point of causing pain, we recommend you to book an appointment with a LASERSIGHT Consultant Optometrist.


How will a LASERSIGHT Doctor Diagnose Keratoconus?

Your LASERSIGHT doctor will test for keratoconus by conducting one or more of these examinations:

  • Corneal Topography - which shows a map of the surface curvature of the cornea
  • Keratometry - which measures the curvature of the cornea
  • Corneal Pachymetry - which measures the thickness of the cornea
  • Slit-lamp Examination - where a light is shone through a bio microscope to magnify and examine the eye

What are the Risk Factors of Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is usually diagnosed as an isolated disorder but there have been instances where it has been reported in association with Down Syndrome, Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, and Mitral Valve Prolapse.

It is also believed that genetics, the environment and the endocrine system all play a role in keratoconus. For example, oxidative stress, allergies and eye rubbing are known to be risk factors of developing keratoconus.

How do I Prevent the Onset of Keratoconus?

  • Avoid vigorous rubbing of your eyes
  • Avoid allergens to decrease the risk of eye irritation

What are the Long Term Implications of Keratoconus?

Without treatment, keratoconus can progressively lead to significant vision impairment and loss of quality of life. Keratoconus in very bad cases can cause blindness.

However, with many advanced eye treatments available today, some patients with keratoconus are able to continue with their everyday life as usual post-surgery.

What are the Treatment Options for Keratoconus?

The corneal deformity associated with keratoconus distorts vision, and impacts the patient’s quality of life. It is important to note that vision cannot be corrected with glasses.

  • INTACS (Corneal Implants) are a small device that is implanted in the cornea to flatten the cornea and change the refraction of light passing through the cornea on its way to the retina.
  • Corneal Collagen Cross-Linking (CXL) is an operation in which a combination of riboflavin (vitamin B2) and UV light is used to harden the cornea. This method is effective in stopping the progress of the disease and reduces the need for corneal transplantation.

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