Q: I am a 22-year-old who has been diagnosed with keratoconus (cone-shaped cornea). What are the treatments for this diagnosis?
A: In the early stages, vision may be only slightly affected, causing glare, light sensitivity and irritation. Each eye may be affected differently. As the disease progresses and the cornea steepens and scars, vision may become distorted. A sudden decrease in vision can occur if the cornea swells. The cornea swells when the elastic part of the cornea develops a tiny crack, which is created by the strain of the cornea's protruded, conelike shape. The swelling may persist for weeks or months as the crack heals and is gradually replaced by scar tissue. Mild cases are successfully treated with glasses or specially designed contact lenses. When vision is no longer satisfactory with glasses or contact lenses, surgery, usually a cornea transplant, is recommended. Other surgeries such as special heating of the cornea (thermokeratoplasty) or adding additional corneal tissue (epikeratophakia) also can be done.
-- Dr. Deborah DiStefano, DiStefano Regional Eye Center; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society
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