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genetic disorder that changes the shape of the cornea
Keratoconus is a condition of one or both eyes that changes the normal shape of the cornea. With keratoconus, the cornea is less firm than usual, leading to thinning and distortion. In keratoconus, the cornea is usually locally thinned. This dilution creates a cone-shaped bulge. Keratoconus usually starts during puberty and in most cases occurs in both eyes. This condition generally progresses slowly.
What is Keratoconus?
Keratoconus occurs in about 1 in 400 people in the Netherlands. This means that about 45,000 people suffer from this condition. Keratoconus usually does not appear until puberty. This condition starts with a local thinning of the back of the cornea in one eye. Only at a later stage does the front of the cornea also begin to bulge forward. When the cornea at the front is deformed, this will reduce vision much more. You usually also get keratoconus in the other eye, but the condition is less severe there. In 80 percent of cases, the keratoconus has a mild form. However, the complaints can already be very serious. It can only be seen with the naked eye in severe forms of keratoconus. Most people with keratoconus also often have allergies, eczema and/or asthma.
Causes of this condition
Keratoconus is caused by both hereditary and non-hereditary factors, and sometimes also by a combination of factors:
- Heredity: The suspected cause of keratoconus is a hereditary congenital weakening of the cornea. Relatives of someone with keratoconus can also have an altered shape of the cornea. That doesn’t mean they don’t suffer from it.
- Allergy: Keratoconus is more common in people who have asthma, allergies, or eczema.
- Syndromes: Having Down, Turner, Marfan, Ehlers/Danlos syndrome can also underlie keratoconus. But also in other ophthalmic conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa and aniridia.
- Rubbing: People who rub their eyes extremely hard and excessively may also develop keratoconus.
Treatment of keratoconus
Keratoconus is a condition that causes you to see less well. This can usually be solved with glasses or hard (sclera) lenses. But sometimes a corneal transplant is needed to improve vision. And for several years now, this condition can be treated with cross-linking, in which the cornea is irradiated with UV light. As a result, the cornea becomes harder and the condition can no longer worsen.