Keratoconus Frequently Asked Questions, Answered by The California Keratoconus Center’s Keratoconus Specialists

Dr. Barry Leonard is the Director of the California Keratoconus Center, and together with his staff of Keratoconus specialists, they’re becoming known as “the Keratoconus doctors” because they have treated thousands of patients for Keratoconus. Why does he have such a passion for fighting this progressive eye disease? Because he was diagnosed with Keratoconus in 1985 and knows firsthand how it impacts your life.

The California Keratoconus Center is on the cutting edge of treatment research for the disease and has pioneered and developed several treatment advances, making our staff of specialists Southern California’s leader in Keratoconus treatment.

If you think you have Keratoconus, have a new diagnosis, or have been frustrated with your previous Keratoconus treatment, this collection of frequently asked questions about Keratoconus may help you understand the disease better. If, after reading this, you still have questions, contact one of our specialists or make an appointment online.

Keratoconus FAQ

1. What Is Keratoconus

Keratoconus (pronounced KEHR-uh-toh-KOH-nus) is a progressive eye disease that turns your normally round cornea into a bulging cone shape. The cornea is an important part of the eye that is responsible for two main things:

  • Bending and focusing light so you can see, similar to how a camera uses light to capture photographs
  • Protecting your eyes from dirt, germs and harmful UV rays

In people with Keratoconus, the light bends in unusual ways depending on what part of the bulging cornea the light passes through.

Back to Keratoconus FAQ Questions

2. What Are the Symptoms of Keratoconus?

Keratoconus has many symptoms, including…

  • Blurry and distorted vision
  • Double vision with one eye closed
  • Triple “ghost” images
  • Night time halos
  • Streaks when viewing bright lights
  • Sensitivity to light, and frequent headaches.

If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment for a Keratoconus Screening exam.

Back to Keratoconus FAQ Questions

3. How Can Keratoconus Affect My Life?

Keratoconus affects your vision which can degrade your quality of life. Individuals with this disease may find it hard to work, read, watch TV, and drive. It can also cause stress, lower your confidence, make you unable to enjoy those important moments in life, reduce your ability to take part in recreational sports, and affect your personality.

Back to Keratoconus FAQ Questions

4. How Common Is Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is a lot more common than people think. In the past, it was estimated that 1 in 2,000 people had it, while today, that number has drastically increased to 1 in 400. This increase is because more people are correctly diagnosed due to advances in technology, awareness, and Optometrists like the specialists at the California Keratoconus Center who have dedicated themselves to helping individuals overcome this condition.

Back to Keratoconus FAQ Questions

5. What Causes Keratoconus?

There is no consensus in the medical community about the causes of Keratoconus. However, we do know that it develops when the collagen protein fibers in the eye weaken. When collagen in the eye weakens, it can cause the cornea to lose its shape. (Think back to your days on a playground when a rubber ball became lopsided with a bulge on one side.)

One cause of this weakness could be due to free radicals in your eyes. Every day, your corneas produce harmful by-products known as free radicals. Antioxidants in your eyes typically eliminate these free radicals, but individuals with Keratoconus don’t produce enough antioxidants to fight off the free radicals. As collagen levels decrease, the corneas lose their strength and start to bulge.

The weakness can also be caused by frequent rubbing of the eyes. There may also be a genetic component since those with the disease in their family are more likely to have the condition.

Back to Keratoconus FAQ Questions

6. Can LASIK or RK Surgery Cause Keratoconus?

LASIK or RK eye surgery can cause Keratoconus in certain individuals. Because the LASIK and RK procedures involve operating on the cornea, they can result in Corneal Ectasia. While the LASIK screening process is more efficient today, many individuals who received the surgery in the past may develop Keratoconus.

Back to Questions

7. Are There Multiple Forms of Keratoconus?

Keratoconus comes in a variety of forms. Depending on your symptoms, you may be experiencing one of the following forms of this disease:

  • Forme Fruste Keratoconus is a mild form and a precursor of the disease. Since it is a mild form of the condition, it usually causes few issues.
  • Nipple Cone Keratoconus involves the cornea forming a cone-like shape. Common symptoms include blurry and distorted vision.
  • Oval Cone Keratoconus is a version where the cornea bulges into an oval shape. The bulging tends to occur at the bottom outer part of the cornea and can make it look like it is sagging.
  • Pellucid Keratoconus is a version of Keratoconus with inferior thinning of the cornea from the outside in.
  • Globus Cone Keratoconus is the most severe form of the disease. It causes an individual’s cornea to thin and bulge into a round shape.

Back to Questions

8. How Is Keratoconus Diagnosed?

There are several methods available for diagnosing Keratoconus. These methods include:

  • Eye refraction where an Optometrist uses special equipment to analyze your eyes for vision problems.
  • Keratometry which involves your eye doctor focusing a circle of light into your cornea to measure the reflection and check the shape of your cornea.
  • Slit-lamp exam involves an eye doctor shining a vertical beam of light on your eye and a microscope to analyze the surface of it. This test assesses the shape of your cornea and can spot other problems too.
  • Corneal mapping is a more advanced technique that uses specialized optical coherence tomography and corneal topography to map the shape of your cornea.
  • Pachymetry is a test to measure the thickness of the cornea.

Which of these methods you require will depend on the resources available to your Keratoconus doctor and how advanced your Keratoconus is.

Back to Questions

9. How Do You Measure the Severity of Keratoconus?

An Optometrist can assesses the severity of Keratoconus by determining how steep your cones are, how thin your corneas are, and their shape.

Back to Questions

10. How Can I Treat My Keratoconus?

Depending on your Keratoconus type, we would treat your Keratoconus with one of the following…

  • Standard eyeglasses, only with the mildest forms of KC
  • Standard soft lenses
  • Custom soft lenses
  • Hybrid Lenses, which are small rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses with a soft lens skirt
  • Small RGP especially made for Keratoconus
  • Small RGP lenses with a piggyback soft contact lens below it
  • Large RGP (or “Scleral” lenses)

Back to Questions

11. What is the Best Keratoconus Treatment?

Since every eye is different, no single “best” keratoconus treatment exists. But we’ve seen the greatest success treating moderate to severe cases of Keratoconus with Scleral Contact Lenses.

The California Keratoconus Center has spent the better part of its existence developing effective solutions for patients with Keratoconus. For example, the Eaglet Eye Surface Profiler is a tool we regularly use to measure your entire cornea and much of the white part of your eye, called the Sclera. This level of accuracy allows our specialists to create a pair of Scleral contact lenses that completely vault over your cornea and gently rest on your Sclera, resulting in a more comfortable Keratoconus contact lens that helps you see more clearly. It’s state-of-the-art for more severe cases of Keratoconus and what Dr. Leonard himself wears daily.

Back to Questions

12. How Can I Stop My Keratoconus From Getting Worse?

Like most diseases, early detection is crucial when it comes to Keratoconus. If your Keratoconus is progressing, you may need to receive the Corneal Crosslinking treatment to stop the progression. Studies have shown it to be 98% effective.

Back to Questions

13. Is Keratoconus Always Progressive?

Keratoconus is a progressive eye condition that can worsen with age. Progressive Keratoconus can be halted using the CXL or C3R (corneal cross-linking) procedure. If you have Keratoconus, it’s highly recommended that you monitor it to keep track of its progression by visiting a Keratoconus specialist regularly.

Kerataconus doesn’t always affect both eyes equally. Some patients may experience stronger symptoms in one eye. While corneal cross-linking can halt Keratoconus, it isn’t always necessary to have this procedure performed on both eyes. In cases where a single eye is more affected, corneal cross-linking may be performed on the affected eye while the other one is monitored over time.

Back to Questions

14. Does Keratoconus Cause Eye Pain?

Keratoconus doesn’t always cause eye pain. However, its symptoms can cause discomfort and other problems. The most common symptoms of Keratoconus include astigmatism, degrading vision quality, and corneal thinning, bulging, or rounding. Some individuals may experience corneal scarring and find themselves unable to use contact lenses. These individuals may require a corneal transplant to correct this problem.

If you have Keratoconus and experience sudden pain in your eyes, you should consult with your Keratoconus specialist immediately.

Back to Questions

15. Can Keratoconus Go Away On Its Own?

Keratoconus is a lifelong eye disease that does not go away on its own. A corneal graft might be needed in severe cases, but that does not eliminate Keratoconus. Individuals with less severe Keratoconus can reduce its effects using specialized contact lenses (hard, piggyback, hybrid, or scleral). Scleral lenses are unique contact lenses that rest on the white part of your eye (the sclera) and do not sit on the cornea.

Back to Questions

16. Can Keratoconus Cause Dry Eye?

Your eyes rely on tears to stay lubricated and to reduce irritation and dryness. Keratoconus can result in dry eyes because of your eyes inability to spread tears over your uneven cornea.

Individuals with Keratoconus may experience dry eye naturally or as a byproduct of wearing contact lenses that further interfere with their eye’s ability to lubricate using tear drops.

Back to Questions

17. What Do I Do If I Think I Have Keratoconus?

Keratoconus is an eye disease that few optometrists are trained to diagnose, and even fewer are trained to treat properly with lasting results. The staff of specialists practicing at the California Keratoconus ARE trained to diagnose and treat the disease with a remarkable success rate.

They form the core of one of the finest keratoconus practices in the country and have been treating patients with Keratoconus since the 80s.

If you think you have Keratoconus, make an appointment with one of our Keratoconus specialists for a Keratoconus Screening Exam. Call our office at 818-891-6711 or make an appointment online.

Back to Keratoconus FAQ Questions