Health
Keratoconus is disease of the eye in which the cornea slowly begins to bulge into a cone-like shape, losing its original thin, round shape.
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When 32-year-old Yuvraj presented with impaired vision in one eye, doctors who examined him diagnosed him with keratoconus. They tried a number of non-surgical treatment options, but none gave Yuvraj relief. Of the number of diseases of the eye that may lead to visual impairment, keratoconus can be particularly tricky.

In Keratoconus, the cornea, a transparent covering present over the iris and pupil, thins and takes on a cone-like shape. This leads to impaired vision and irritation of the eyes. As the cornea becomes more conical, the light entering the eyeball is deflected irregularly, leading to visual impairment. Keratoconus is a progressive disease, which means that it worsens over time if not attended to. TheNational Health Portalof India has noted that the condition is extremely prevalent in the country, though it may go undiagnosed.

In Yuvraj’s case, doctors eventually decided that optical keratoplasty or corneal transplant was the best line of treatment, seeing that his cornea had become very thin and presented with severe scarring. After undergoing the corneal transplant, there was a dramatic improvement in his vision and today he is able to live his life normally.

“The incidence of eye allergies among children is rising due to increasing pollution. Also, widespread exposure to artificial lights and to computer and mobile screens is causing dry eyes. Dryness and inflammation is a vicious combination that leads to eye allergies. When children keep rubbing their eyes due to allergies, it causes keratoconus,” said Dr Raghu Nagaraju, a senior consultant of cornea & refractive surgery at Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, Bengaluru. He was addressing the media at the hospital's event titled on raising awareness for eye allergies causing keratoconus.

Panel of doctors speaking to media at Dr Agarwals Eye Hospital in Bengaluru

While the condition does not affect only children, several ophthalmologists have noted a significant rise in the number of children presenting with keratoconus. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to the condition; however, there are certain factors that may cause some people to develop this. Dr Kalpana Suresh, an eye surgeon at Chennai-based Kalpana Eye Care,explainshow irritation in the eyes predisposes children to several eye conditions.

Experts have noted that changes in modern lifestyle is leading to higher rates of allergies, irritation, and the eventual development of conditions like keratoconus, which may lead to long-standing visual impairment.

“Any child who is rubbing eyes frequently needs treatment for allergy as well as eye examination by a corneal specialist to rule out keratoconus. This condition is also suspected in cases where blurred vision does not improve even after wearing glasses. As a precaution, parents should limit exposure of children to dust, get treatment for allergies, avoid too much artificial light, and limit exposure to computer, phone or TV screens,” states Dr Preethi, a consultant ophthalmologist at Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, Bengaluru.

Doctors recommend getting your eyes tested at least once a year in order to screen for conditions such as keratoconus, and encourage that the practice be incorporated into a standard health routine.