Keratoconus (pronounced: ker-uh-toe-koh-nus) – otherwise known as conical cornea – is a degenerative eye disease. It happens when the cornea (the clear front surface of the eye) thins. As it progresses, the cornea develops a cone-like bulge which can result in some significant visual issues.
It often affects both eyes to varying degrees and symptoms usually develop when people are younger (aged 10-25).
There’s no hard and fast cause, but it looks like genetics could be a risk factor - with 20% of people with the condition also having a relative who has it. People with asthma, allergies or hayfever are believed to be more at risk because excessive eye rubbing can damage the fibres of the cornea.
Those living with diseases like Down's Syndrome, Marfan's Syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome may also be genetically predisposed.
While there is no cure for keratoconus, treatment can help to slow or stop the progression of the disease and correct vision loss. If caught early, this can be done with glasses or contacts.
As it progresses your optometrist might recommend rigid contact lenses or therapies like corneal cross-linking. If it gets to the advanced stage, you may need a corneal transplant.
But the good news is early detection and treatment of the condition can help you stabilise symptoms and prevent the condition worsening.