Keratoconus in Children

Keratoconus is an eye disease that occurs when the cornea of your eye becomes stretched and thin. When that happens, your normally even, curved and dome-shaped cornea changes its shape into an uneven cone one. As a result, the light that enters your eye will no longer focus accurately on your retina and this will lead to a blurred vision.

Keratoconus can also affect children, but not before puberty. For parents, any disease or condition affecting their children can be a cause of alarm and panic. If you suspect that your child may be suffering from this disease, it is best that you equip yourself with essential information about this condition.

Keratoconus does not seem to occur before puberty, therefore if your child has not started their puberty process there is probably little to worry about.

Causes

Keratoconus in children may be caused by any of the following:

•    This condition is more commonly found in children who rub their eyes frequently.
•    Children suffering from eczema may be at risk of suffering from this disease.
•    This condition is also common in children with Down’s syndrome.
•    This may be hereditary. Studies show that a parent with this condition has a one in ten chance of having a child suffering from the same disease.

Symptoms

The following symptoms should warn you that your child may be suffering from keratoconus:

•    Vision is affected, depending on the extent of the stretching and thinning of the cornea.
•    Blurred vision
•    Extreme sensitivity to bright lights
•    Scarring of the cornea in advanced cases
•    Hazy cornea in advanced cases

Diagnosis

Keratoconus can be detected through the following means:

•    An optometrist specialising in keratoconus can examine the eyes using a slit lamp to check on signs of this condition.
•    A picture of the cornea will be taken using a special camera to measure how uneven and curved it has become. This is called a corneal topographer.

Treatments

Here are some treatments that are usually used to cure children with keratoconus:

•    Use of eye glasses to improve vision and reduce glare
•    Use of contact lenses to improve vision
•    When your child’s cornea has already suffered from scarring and haziness, he / she might need to undergo a procedure called collagen crosslinking with Riboflavin.  This treatment has been a major break through in the treatment of keratoconus for children as it slows down or even stops any further progression in most cases.
•    Corneal transplant can be offered in extreme cases but it is better to wait until the child has become an adult (around 25) at which time the condition will have slowed down and the corneal transplant option is more successful.

Helping Your Children Cope

When children suffer from conditions like keratoconus which can affect their vision, you should help them cope and deal with the problem so they will not feel any different from their peers. Here are some things you can do to help them:

•    Encourage them to wear their eye glasses or contact lenses so the vision will improve immediately. The glasses or lenses will also help parts of the brain responsible for vision to grow and develop properly.

•    Be conscious of any vision problems that your child may be experiencing. They might not be able to articulate what they are feeling accurately. They may also think that the symptoms they are feeling are normal. Help them communicate with you.

•    If they are having trouble reading their books, find books with bigger prints to make reading easier for them.

•    The key though is to see an expert practitioner, as keratoconus in children can progress very quickly.  Appropriate management is key to the best possible outcome.

•    Remember this: Keratoconus does not cause blindness, but the earlier it is managed the better the outcome.

Filed Under: Keratoconus BLOG

About the Author: Dr Jim Kokkinakis is well known amongst his peers as an expert in contact lens fitting and troubleshooting for Keratoconus and Corneal Transplants. Many colleagues and eye surgeons refer their patients to Jim’s practice (The Eye Practice) in the Sydney CBD. Practicing in the city also means seeing people that use computers and have significant eyestrain issues. Apart from clinical work, Jim also regularly lectures around Australia and internationally to undergraduates, postgraduates and other eye care practitioners.

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