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Keratoconus is a degenerative eye disease that causes the cornea to gradually deteriorate and develop an abnormal, cone-like shape. The condition usually affects both eyes and progresses over a span of 10 years or longer. According to the Mayo Clinic, keratoconus is more common in younger people between the ages of 10 and 25. The cause of keratoconus is unknown, but it tends to run in families. The risk of developing keratoconus is higher for people with other eye conditions and/or congenital diseases, such as Down syndrome and bone and connective tissue disorders. If you are experiencing rapid vision loss, consult a board-certified ophthalmologist, as keratoconus usually can be diagnosed with a routine eye exam.
Signs and symptoms
Keratoconus worsens as the disease advances over time. Common signs and symptoms include:
- Blurred or distorted vision
- Progressive nearsightedness
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions
- Abnormal curvature or bulging of the cornea (astigmatism)
In advanced stages, keratoconus can trigger a sudden corneal rupture, resulting in a visible clouding of vision and in some cases, a complete whiteout of the eye.
Specialized contact lenses may be used for people with early-stage keratoconus. Those with late-stage keratoconus, however, often require a corneal implant or corneal transplant combined with a procedure called cross-linking, which strengthens and stabilizes the cornea to prevent further astigmatism and vision loss.