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Keratoconus is a degenerative disorder characterised by thinning of the cornea, which is like the clear windscreen of the eye. The cornea, which is normally round or dome-shaped, starts to bulge and become cone-like instead. Given that the cornea is involved in bending (refracting) and focusing light rays onto the retina, this change leads to visual distortion, which can range from mild to severe depending on the stage of keratoconus.
The cause of keratoconus is not fully understood, although there are indications that it may be a genetic condition and studies are currently underway to look at this association. In fact, I’m an investigator for one such study – ‘Investigation of the Genetic Aetiology of Inherited Corneal Diseases’.
Continuous or vigorous eye rubbing in susceptible individuals may lead to the development of keratoconus. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that eye rubbing be avoided. Read more about the dangers of rubbing your eyes.
Previous studies suggest that approximately 1 in every 2000 people has keratoconus, although recent work indicates the incidence is higher, perhaps as much as 1 in 50. Both sexes are affected equally. Most cases are diagnosed in younger people, between 15 to 30 years of age and both eyes are typically affected, although it is usually asymmetrical. There is a link between some other medical conditions (e.g.glaucoma, hay fever and sleep apnoea) and keratoconus.
An ophthalmologist uses a slit lamp and/or corneal topography to diagnose keratoconus.
For more information about keratoconus, click here.
Vision Eye Institute has a number of ophthalmologists who specialise in the diagnosis and treatment of keratoconus and other corneal conditions. You can find a list of our keratoconus clinics here.
The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.
Date last reviewed: 2023-09-01 | Date for next review: 2025-09-01