Is Astigmatism the Same as Keratoconus?

Is Astigmatism the Same as Keratoconus?

May 19, 2022

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When it comes to eye health and vision disorders, it's important to distinguish between different conditions to ensure you get the appropriate treatment and care. Two terms that often get intermingled in discussions about vision are astigmatism and keratoconus. While both relate to the shape and curvature of the cornea, they're not identical conditions.

Astigmatism is characterized by an uneven curvature of the cornea, leading to blurry vision. One particular type, irregular astigmatism, can be particularly challenging to correct with standard eyeglasses or contacts. On the other hand, keratoconus represents a more progressive thinning and bulging of the cornea, which may require specialized keratoconus treatment to manage. Our team at Kraff Eye Institute is here to help you understand the difference.

Understanding Keratoconus

Understanding Keratoconus

Keratoconus is a degenerative eye disorder categorized by the progressive thinning of the cornea, often beginning in one's teens and stabilizing around the thirties. As it advances, the cornea will assume a cone-like shape due to its steep curvature. In a standard eye, healthy corneal tissue maintains a uniform shape that allows for clear, quality vision. However, in the eye with keratoconus, the structural integrity of the cornea is compromised which leads to pronounced irregular astigmatism.

Even though both keratoconus and astigmatism are related to corneal irregularities, they have different origins. Astigmatism is typically a result of a generally misshapen cornea or lens. In contrast, keratoconus is characterized by the cornea's progressive thinning.

There are factors that potentially influence the development of keratoconus including genetics, eye allergies, and certain connective tissue disorders.

Understanding Astigmatism

Astigmatism is a common vision condition that results from an irregular shape of the eye's cornea or lens. Unlike a perfect sphere, an eye with astigmatism has a shape similar to a football. This results in blurred or distorted vision. This irregularity causes the light rays that enter the eye to fall on multiple focal points on the retina, causing some parts of an image to appear clear while others might be blurry or stretched.

Astigmatism can be classified into different types based on how it affects the eye's ability to focus. For instance, hyperopic astigmatism occurs when one meridian of the eye is farsighted. Astigmatism correction is key to adjusting this focus disparity and providing a clearer vision to the affected individuals.

Key Differences Between Keratoconus and Astigmatism

Key Differences Between Keratoconus and Astigmatism

The human eye is incredibly intricate and can be affected by various conditions, two of which are keratoconus and astigmatism. Both conditions involve irregularities in the shape of the eye's cornea, but their causes, symptoms, and treatments are significantly different.

Keratoconus vs. Astigmatism: Symptoms

Blurred Vision and Light Sensitivity: Both conditions can cause blurry vision. While astigmatism results from the eye's inability to bend light properly due to the shape of the cornea or lens, keratoconus develops as the cornea thins and adopts a more cone-like shape. Light sensitivity, eye pain, and double vision are more commonly associated with keratoconus than regular astigmatism.

Keratoconus Vision becomes blurred Occasional headaches Discomfort or pain in the eyes Experiencing halos and glare Challenges in nighttime vision Sensitivity to light Frequent eye rubbing
Astigmatism Blurred vision Frequent headaches Mild discomfort in the eyes Glare during the night Sensation of strained eyes Need to squint for improved vision

Astigmatism vs. Keratoconus: Diagnostic Methods

Corneal Topography Scan: An eye doctor may use a corneal topography scan to obtain detailed images of the corneal surface. This diagnostic tool can distinguish between symptoms of astigmatism or keratoconus, helping to differentiate between the conditions. It provides insights into the cornea's curvature and helps distinguish astigmatism or keratoconus.

Treatment Options

To address the complexities of these eye conditions and subsequent blurry vision, a range of treatment options are available. Each strives to significantly improve vision and enhance overall eye health.

Keratoconus Treatment

  • Corneal Collagen Cross-linking: This treatment involves using ultraviolet light combined with vitamin B drops to strengthen the corneal fibers, slowing or halting keratoconus progression.
  • Corneal Transplant: In advanced cases where the corneal tissue becomes exceedingly thin or scarred, an eye doctor might recommend a corneal transplant.
  • Specialized Contact Lenses: Scleral contact lenses, rigid gas permeable lenses, and soft contact lenses can be prescribed for varying degrees of keratoconus. Scleral lenses, in particular, are ideal for severe cases as they cover a larger portion of the eye, offering more comfort and better vision.

Correcting Astigmatism

  • Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses: For most people with astigmatism, these are the primary solutions. They will correct the way light rays focus on the retina and address astigmatism vision blurriness.
  • Laser Surgeries and Other Procedures: LASIK surgery and other refractive surgery procedures reshape the cornea and allow light to focus more accurately on the retina. These surgical methods can correct astigmatism and are often considered for patients who want a vision solution other than eyeglasses or contact lenses.

The Role of Regular Eye Check-ups

The Role of Regular Eye Check-ups

Regular eye check-ups are imperative, especially when considering conditions like keratoconus and astigmatism. A comprehensive eye exam not only detects refractive errors but can also discern the early signs of these specific conditions. This allows for timely intervention. Early detection is essential as both keratoconus and astigmatism can progressively impact vision if left unaddressed.

How Kraff Eye Institute Can Help

Located in Chicago, the Kraff Eye Institute is a leading destination for those seeking expert eye care. Our compassionate team offers advanced treatments like corneal cross-linking and LASIK surgery, and we specialize in addressing conditions like keratoconus and astigmatism through surgical procedures and other specialized procedures. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam with us to ensure you're receiving the highest quality care for your vision. Trust our experts at the Kraff Eye Institute to guide you toward clearer sight.

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Dr. Colman R. Kraff

Committed to advancing new technologies in the field of ophthalmology, Dr. Colman Kraff helped to pioneer laser vision correction. In February of 1991, as part of a five-site, U.S., FDA clinical trial team, Dr. Kraff successfully performed the first excimer laser procedures in the Chicagoland area using the VISX Excimer Laser.

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