What is keratoconus?

Keratoconus is a condition that results in progressive thinning of the cornea.  The cornea is the clear, front window of the eye, which focuses light onto the retina.  The cornea is normally smooth and dome-shaped. However, in keratoconus, the cornea becomes very thin, irregular, and starts to protrude like a cone.  This causes blurred vision that is often not correctable with glasses. Keratoconus usually involves both eyes, however one eye may be more advanced than the other.

What causes Keratoconus?

The cause of keratoconus is still not known. Genetics plays a role, since approximately 10% of people with keratoconus also have a family member with the condition. Certain ethnic groups are also more predisposed to developing keratoconus.

How is Keratoconus treated?

Treatment often depends on the severity of the condition, and presence of progression. During early stages, vision can be corrected with glasses. As the condition progresses, rigid contact lenses may need to be worn.

Progression, if present, can in most cases be stopped with collagen cross-linking treatment, a day procedure that strengthens and stiffens the cornea. However, cross-linking is ineffective in advanced keratoconus, so early detection is important.

Patients who have keratoconus should refrain from rubbing their eyes, as this can aggravate the corneal thinning, and make symptoms worse.

When good vision is no longer possible with contact lenses, a corneal transplant may be recommended. This operation is only necessary in about 10-20% of patients with keratoconus. Of all conditions requiring corneal transplants, keratoconus has the best prognosis for clear vision.


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