By Stuart Harrell, O.D. Board Certified Optometric Physician

It is estimated that 1 in 2000 people have Keratoconus. Keratoconus is a condition where a bulge or steepened area develops within the cornea resulting in blurred and distorted vision. Keratoconus typically begins in the second to third decade of life.

Early Keratoconus often causes the patient to complain of blurred or double vision. While the double vision is typically not true double vision, it is often described as “ghosting” or overlapping images. Many times, patients notice that with glasses or soft contact lenses they cannot attain clear correctable vision with one or both eyes. Often, patients will have headaches, may squint to see better, are light sensitive, and overall just don’t see as well as their friends and colleagues. In the vast majority of these cases, patients can see significantly improved clarity with specialty contact lens (sclerals, hybrids, gas permeable).

Advanced Keratoconus often has the patient complaining they cannot function easily with their glasses or soft contact lenses. Many of these patients have to wear specialty contacts to obtain functional vision.

Currently the FDA has approved Corneal Cross Linking to help with keratoconus. This is a procedure where Riboflavin (vitamin B2) is applied to the corneal surface and then exposed to UV light causing a strengthening of the patient’s corneal collagen fibers. While this technology is not designed to eliminate Keratoconus, it has been shown to help stabilize the cornea, thus reducing the risk of progressive corneal steepening.

In even more advanced cases, patients may need a corneal transplant. This is typically due to notable cornea scaring , insufficient vision or unacceptable fit with current specialty contact lenses. After corneal transplantation most patients will still need a specialty contact lens to see properly. While the old cornea and keratoconus are gone, the transplanted tissue typically has irregular astigmatism induced by suturing, therefore requiring a specialty lens to obtain the patient’s best corrected vision. The vast majority of patients achieve very good vision after transplantation (typically with a specialty contact lens). Corneal transplants often last 20 or more years.

To learn more about the latest contact lens options for keratoconus please visit our blog post entitled “Specialty Contact Lens.”



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