What is Keratoconus?

The cornea is the outer boundary of our eye. It is also known as the “cornea” and is like the window through which we can see. Depending on people, congenital diseases can occur in this area. From then on, a so-called keratoconus is spoken of. This is a disease of the cornea, which slowly deforms. Furthermore, the skin begins to thin at this point. Typically, this condition occurs in 1 in 2,000 people.

The patients are mostly between the ages of 20 and 30 years. The first sign of keratoconus is the severe change in visual impairment. Also typical are the perception of light rings and light sources. In general, sensitivity to light increases. The eye feels blinded more quickly. In the earlier stages, the whole thing can still be compensated for with glasses or hard contact lenses. If it progresses further, however, a specific treatment is required, which will be discussed in more detail later.

What Are the Causes of Keratoconus?

Also interesting to know are the causes of the eye disease. In general, the cornea and its transparency can be impaired. This can be, for example, a cloudiness, deformation or scars. These can be the result of injuries. Hereditary diseases or other diseases are also conceivable. Due to the opacity, light is prevented from passing through to the back of the eye. It is difficult to predict exactly where the causes lie. However, the above points can give a small overview. In addition, an injury to the cornea should not be trifled with, as this can be very painful.

What are the symptoms of people with keratoconus?

The classic symptoms of this disease are deterioration of vision and a deformed cornea. Fortunately, various detection methods are available, which have a major impact on subsequent healing. The diagnosis is often made too late. However, the earlier the bulging corneal change can be detected, the better. Doctors use various examination methods to detect it. Among other things, the curvature of the front surface of the cornea is examined.

Modern methods such as corneal topography can detect an early stage. In this way, the cornea can be divided into three areas:

  • normal
  • Suspicious
  • Pathological

Basically, the curvature and thickness measurement are examined at the same time. The course of the corneal thickness, decentering of the thinnest point and changes in the anterior and posterior cornea are essential.

How is keratoconus treated?

Fortunately, there are several ways to treat the disease. As already mentioned, hard contact lenses can be used in the earlier stages. However, the whole thing only works if the patient has a stable keratoconus. Once progression is detected, other measures must be employed. This is where step therapy comes into play. Ultimately, this should prevent further deterioration. Thanks to the treatment, the cornea is strengthened so that deformation is stopped or delayed. Basically, two variants are used here:

1) Corneal cross-linking

The first method is corneal crosslinking. This method is best suited for patients whose disease is still in the early stages. It will be frozen in its current state. This method is now known as an effective treatment method. Thanks to the technology, the cornea is not only stabilized biomechanically, but also biochemically. The intensity of the UV rays is selected in such a way that no further damage can occur to the cornea.

The treatment itself lasts about 60 minutes. A so-called cross-linking of the corneal collagen is achieved here, which can be compared to the natural aging process of the skin. Unfortunately, treatment can only stop the current process, but cannot reverse it.

2) Keratoplasty

Keratoplasty is also available. Currently, there is only one way to regain vision from a corneal opacity. Corneal transfer, also known as keratoplasty. Of the human tissue transfers, this one is the best. In the US alone, more than 20,000 transplants are performed in this area each year. The particular tissue comes from a donor bank. It can only be taken from a healthy eye of a deceased person who has consented to it.

Don't wait too long to see an ophthalmologist

Tanja Schmückle Meier


Seit Feb 2024 Teilzeitpensum Seeaugenpraxis Horgen
1998-heute breites Erfahrungsspektrum mit Patienten aller Altersgruppen durch orthoptische, wissenschaftliche sowie administrative Tätigkeiten und Weiterbildungen in verschiedenen Augenarztpraxen in den Kantonen Zug und Zürich sowie am Universitätsspital Zürich
1995-1998 Ausbildung zur Orthoptistin am Kantonsspital St. Gallen
1994 Abitur in München