Keratoconus Symptoms & Treatments


Are you struggling with blurry or distorted vision, or recurrent eye strain and headaches? Several conditions can cause these symptoms, and keratoconus is one of them. Keratoconus is a manageable condition, so read on to find out if you may have it and what you can do about it.

What Is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is an eye condition that happens when the cornea becomes thin and cone-shaped. The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped front part of your eye that focuses light into the retina. A cone-shaped cornea prevents light from being focused correctly on the retina, which causes blurry and distorted vision and may cause sensitivity to light and glare. 

Keratoconus usually affects both eyes but can affect one eye more than the other, causing very different vision between the two eyes.  It usually begins to affect you between your late teens and 30 years of age, and may progress slowly for 10 years or more.

In its early stages, keratoconus may be able to be treated with glasses or soft contact lenses. In its later stages, you may need to use rigid lenses or other types of lenses, and if the condition worsens, you may need a corneal transplant.

Keratoconus may be genetic, but it is also associated with eye allergies, excessive eye rubbing, and connective tissue disorders like Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Keratoconus Symptoms

  • Blurry and distorted vision
  • Distorted vision where straight lines look wavy
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Eye redness or swelling
  • Increased nearsightedness or astigmatism
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions
  • Halos around lights
  • Eye strain and headache
  • Double vision in one eye
  • Bulging of the cornea
  • Inability to wear contact lenses because they no longer fit properly and feel uncomfortable

Diagnosing Keratoconus

To diagnose keratoconus, your eye doctor will review your medical and family history, perform an eye exam, and may perform other tests to learn more about the shape of your cornea. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, an eye doctor at Toledo LASIK can test you for keratoconus. Call 419-827-3856 to book an appointment today.


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Tests to diagnose keratoconus include:

  • Eye refraction: In this test, you look through a device called a phoropter or refractor at an eye chart 20 feet away. This device contains wheels of different lenses, and the doctor will ask you what combination gives you the clearest vision of the eye chart. Then the doctor may use a hand-held device called a retinoscope that shines a specialized light in your eyes, which also determines your refraction.
  • Slit-lamp examination: For this test, a vertical beam of light is directed at the surface of the eye and the doctor will use a low-powered microscope to view the eye to evaluate the shape of your cornea and look for other potential problems. To better examine the cornea and tear layer, a yellow dye (fluorescein) is often added to the eye, usually in the form of an eye drop. The dye rinses out with tears as you blink. 

The doctor may also want to dilate your pupils, which is done with eye drops that take about 15 to 20 minutes to work. Then the slit-lamp examination is repeated using another small lens held near the eye so that the back of the eye can be examined.

  • Keratometry: During this test, a device called an ophthalmometer or keratometer is used to focus a circle of light on the cornea to measure the reflection, which determines the basic shape of the cornea.
  • Computerized corneal mapping: Tests such as corneal topography and corneal tomography capture images to create an in-depth shape map of the cornea. For a corneal topography test, you will look at a point inside a bowl-shaped device as the device takes pictures, and then the device converts the pictures to a sequence of color-coded maps. Through a similar process, corneal tomography can measure the thickness of the cornea. Computerized corneal mapping can often detect early signs of keratoconus before a slit-lamp examination can.

Keratoconus Treatment Options

When symptoms are mild, keratoconus can be treated with eyeglasses, and later you may need special hard contact lenses.

There are also other ways to treat keratoconus, which include:

Surgical Options

  • Intacs: This is a small curved device that is surgically implanted in your cornea and helps flatten the curvature of your cornea to improve your vision.
  • Corneal cross-linking: In this procedure, the doctor uses a special UV light and eye drops to strengthen the cornea, which helps to flatten or stiffen the cornea and prevent it from bulging further. Toledo LASIK’s recognized ophthalmologists can offer this procedure using advanced technology for cross-linking.
  • Corneal transplant/keratoplasty: When your symptoms are severe, your doctor may suggest a corneal transplant, where some or all of the diseased cornea is replaced with healthy donor cornea tissue.

Non-Surgical Options

  • Eyeglasses or soft contact lenses: In early keratoconus, glasses or soft contact lenses can correct blurry or distorted vision, but you may need to frequently change your prescription as the shape of the corneas change.
  • Hard contact lenses: Hard contact lenses are often the next step in treating more advanced keratoconus. They may be uncomfortable at first, but many people adjust to them. They can provide very good vision and can be made to fit your corneas.
  • Piggyback lenses: If hard lenses are uncomfortable, your doctor may recommend “piggybacking” a hard contact lens on top of a soft one.
  • Hybrid lenses: These lenses have a rigid center with a softer ring for enhanced comfort.
  • Scleral lenses: These lenses are useful for irregular shape changes in the cornea during advanced keratoconus. They sit on the white part of the eye called the sclera and arch over the cornea without touching it.

Choosing a Keratoconus Treatment Provider

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, you’ll want to see an eye doctor as soon as you can. The ophthalmologists at Toledo LASIK are trained in identifying and managing keratoconus with advanced treatments, including corneal cross-linking. Call 419-827-3856 or visit this link to schedule an appointment today.


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Before you visit the doctor, you’ll want to make a list of information to prepare for your appointment, including:

  • Symptoms you’ve been having and for how long
  • Recent life changes
  • All medications, including eye drops, vitamins, and supplements, and the doses
  • Any questions you want to ask the doctor

Some questions you may want to ask:

  • What is most likely causing my symptoms?
  • What are other possible causes?
  • What tests do I need?
  • Is my condition temporary?
  • What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
  • How can I best manage keratoconus and my other health conditions together?
  • Is there any information – printed material or websites – you can give me to better understand my condition and potential treatments?

The symptoms of keratoconus can interfere with your daily activities, but there are effective treatments available. The best option is to prioritize your eyesight and visit an eye doctor as soon as you can if you experience any abnormal vision symptoms such as blurriness or red and swollen eyes. The experienced ophthalmologists and the latest vision technology at Toledo LASIK can help you manage keratoconus and your overall vision health.

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