Have you recently noticed any changes in your vision? For many this can signal changes in your eye health, such as the development of astigmatism, but for others, an unexpected change can indicate a more serious problem. Keratoconus, a progressive eye condition in which the cornea weakens and thins over time causing the development of a cone-like bulge, is one of these conditions.
While symptoms for keratoconus often first appear in the late teens and early twenties, there are instances where a diagnosis may come later in life. Keratoconus can often be misdiagnosed, as symptoms can be confused for other more common conditions. If left untreated, it can result in significant visual loss.
Keratoconus has been considered a rare disease, but with more accurate tools and more advanced diagnostic equipment , we are learning that this condition may be more common.
With new diagnostic tools allowing for earlier diagnosis and an increase in awareness of the condition among people and physicians, keratoconus is being detected sooner and more accurately. It’s important to call the eye doctor if you notice changes in your or your family’s vision.
There are FDA-approved treatment options available, such as corneal cross-linking, clinically proven to slow or halt the progression of the condition. We recently spoke with one of our keratoconus experts, Dr. Audrey Talley-Rostov of Northwest Eye Surgeons, about when someone should be screened for keratoconus, the importance of early diagnosis, and how keratoconus awareness has developed over the years.
How do you determine if someone should be screened for keratoconus? What are the warning signs?
Anyone who has increasing astigmatism, a family history of keratoconus and/or significant change in vision, especially in childhood or teenage years, should be screened for keratoconus. However, adults over 40 can also have changes and development or progression of this condition. It is important to be aware of increasing astigmatism, as this may be the first sign of keratoconus.
Why is an early keratoconus diagnosis important for someone’s short and long-term eye health?
Early diagnosis of keratoconus can lead to treatment with cross-linking that can help prevent the progression of this condition and the need for corneal transplantation1. In addition, other behavior factors, such as eye rubbing, can be recognized and modified. Dry eye, which can accompany keratoconus, can also be diagnosed and treated appropriately, potentially decreasing eye rubbing behavior, and improving overall eye health.
How has keratoconus awareness changed in the last five years?
I am encouraged that more eye care practitioners are becoming aware of keratoconus and therefore screening patients or referring patients for screening if they do not have the diagnostic equipment themselves. Topography and tomography systems are extremely helpful for screening potential keratoconus patients. There are now software applications that are included in some of these devices that are helpful for early detection and progression of the condition. In addition, the cross-linking treatment, which strengthens the cornea and helps prevent the progression of keratoconus has become more readily available in the United States since FDA-approval in 2016.
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Dr. Rostov is a paid consultant of Glaukos.
Suggestions offered by the physician are based on their experience using the KXL® System and are their opinion. Medical decisions for your patients are to be based upon their condition and your medical judgement. The company does not recommend or endorse any particular course of treatment or medical choice.
- Godefrooij DA, Gans R, Imhof SM, Wisse RP. Nationwide reduction in the number of corneal transplantations for keratoconus following the implementation of cross-linking. Acta Ophthalmol 2016;94(7):675-8.
*Individual outcomes may vary. The depiction may not reflect the typical keratoconus patient’s experience and the timeline may vary. It is not intended to represent of guarantee that anyone will have the same or similar outcome