What Is Keratoconus?

The eye is a complex and hardworking organ with several layers. The conjunctiva is the first layer covering the eye, and the second is the cornea. The cornea is a clear dome-shaped tissue that covers the pupil and the iris that helps focus light onto the pupil and lens. 


What Is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is an eye condition characterized by gradual corneal thinning. That causes the cornea to lose its balanced dome shape and bulge into a cone shape. Irregularities of the cornea’s surface can lead to distorted or blurry vision. 

The word comes from the Greek words keras, meaning horn, and konos, meaning cone. The primary function of the cornea is to bend light into the pupil. An asymmetrical cornea does not refract light properly, leading to blurriness and vision distortion. 

Symptoms typically affect both eyes, but they may start in one eye. This condition typically begins at puberty and continues to progress into the mid-30s. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict if it will worsen or how fast it will do so.




Although researchers have been studying this condition for decades, they are yet to understand it fully. They do not know the definitive cause, but many believe there may be a predisposition to developing keratoconus at birth. The loss of collagen in the cornea is a common finding in this disease. That may be due to an imbalance between the production and destruction of corneal tissue. 


Risk Factors

The following factors may increase your risk of developing this eye condition:


  • Genetics: Do you have a family history of keratoconus or certain systemic disorders like Down syndrome? If so, you are at a higher risk of developing keratoconus

  • Age: Eye doctors often discover this condition in patients in their teenage years. Younger people with advanced keratoconus are more likely to require surgical intervention as the disease progresses

  • Chronic Eye Rubbing: Experts associate chronic eye rubbing with developing keratoconus. Eye rubbing may also be a risk factor for the progression of this disease

  • Chronic Eye Inflammation: Inflammation from irritants or allergies can contribute to corneal destruction and keratoconus



Many patients are unaware they have keratoconus. The earliest symptom is progressively worsening vision or slight vision blurring. Other symptoms include:


  • Poor night vision

  • Halos and glare around lights

  • Increased light sensitivity

  • Headaches and eye irritation associated with eye pain

  • Sudden clouding or worsening of vision




A comprehensive eye exam is the best way to diagnose keratoconus. Your eye doctor may perform corneal topography to diagnose the disease early and follow its progression. The doctor will take a computerized image that creates a map of your cornea’s curve. A slit-lamp exam of the cornea can also help detect corneal abnormalities. Eye doctors also perform pachymetry to measure thinning areas of the cornea.



Treatment of this eye disease focuses on stopping corneal changes and maintaining visual acuity. Your treatment option will depend on the severity of your condition and how fast it progresses. Options include prescription lenses, surgery, or collagen cross-linking devices. 



Early diagnosis and treatment of keratoconus give you the best chance of preventing or minimizing permanent vision changes. That is why eye doctors recommend regular comprehensive eye examinations even if you do not have any existing eye or vision problems. 

For more on keratoconus, contact Advanced Vision Institute at our Las Vegas, Nevada offices. Call (702) 819-9800 to schedule an appointment today.

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