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Understanding Keratoconus

What is Keratoconus? 

Keratoconus is a vision condition that occurs when the normally round cornea (the front part of the eye) becomes thin and irregular (cone) shaped. This abnormal shape prevents the light entering the eye from being focused correctly on the retina and causes distortion of vision.

diagram of two eyes (left) shows normal cornea (right) shoes cone shaped corneaKeratoconus may occur at puberty (late teens for male and early twenties for female population) and progress into adulthood. There is no prediction of how quickly the disease will progress, or if it will progress overall. Keratoconus will typically affect both eyes, with one being more severely affected than the other. 

What causes keratoconus? 

There are no known causes of keratoconus, however, it is likely genetic and environmental factors can be a cause. Some potential risk factors include: 

  • Genetics: Family history plays a role, as keratoconus is more common in individuals with a family member who has the condition.
  • Eye Rubbing: Chronic and vigorous eye rubbing may contribute to the development and progression of keratoconus.
  • Hormonal Changes: Some hormonal imbalances, such as those associated with puberty or pregnancy, could potentially impact the cornea's structure.
  • Eye Health Issues: Conditions like atopic diseases (eczema, asthma, hay fever) Ehlos Danlers syndrome, and Down Syndrome are associated with a higher risk of keratoconus.


Many keratoconus patients are unaware they have the disease. The earliest symptom is a slight blurring of vision or progressively poor vision that is not easily corrected. 

Other symptoms of keratoconus include: 

  • Glare and halos around lights
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Eye irritation or headaches associated with eye pain
  • Increased sensitivity to bright light
  • Sudden worsening or clouding of vision


When it comes to treatment of keratoconus it highly depends on the stage of the disease and its progression. Early intervention is crucial to prevent further decline in vision.

patient getting an eye examTreatment options can include: 

  • Glasses and Soft Contact Lenses: In the early stages, eyeglasses or soft contact lenses may provide adequate vision correction.
  • Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Contact Lenses: These lenses help reshape the cornea and improve vision by providing a smooth surface for light to focus.
  • Scleral Lenses: Larger lenses that vault over the cornea and rest on the white part of the eye (sclera) can provide better comfort and vision for some individuals.
  • Corneal Cross-Linking: A non-invasive procedure that strengthens the cornea by applying ultraviolet light and a riboflavin solution to promote collagen cross-linking.
  • Intacs (Intracorneal Ring Segments): Small, crescent-shaped plastic rings implanted in the cornea to reshape its curvature and improve vision.
  • Corneal Transplantation: For advanced cases, a corneal transplant (keratoplasty) may be necessary to replace the damaged cornea with a healthy donor cornea.

Keratoconus is a complex eye disorder that requires careful management and treatment. Early diagnosis and intervention are essential for maintaining good vision and preventing the progression of the condition. 

If you or a loved one experience any of the symptoms associated with keratoconus, call The Eye Institute at 215.276.6111 to make an appointment today.